Gov. McAuliffe signs bills aimed at extending safety, justice to sexual assault victims

(File photo)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday signed two bills that he says will help provide victims of sexual assault the justice and safety they need.

When Attorney General Mark Herring learned there were 2,000 rape kits or PERK (physical evidence recovery kits) sitting on storage shelves, he launched a $3.4 million project to end the statewide backlog.

They are still waiting on all results, but the Office of the Attorney General says there have been 19 hits in Virginia Beach.

“Survivors show unbelievable strength and resilience in the toughest of times. It is our responsibility as Virginians to do everything we can to ensure them that they get through their darkest hours,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.

SB1501, which was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), makes sure survivors of sexual violence are notified when their kits are tested and that they have access to the law enforcement analysis that comes from it.

“There was no law requiring to do that, believe it or not. We were as surprised as anyone else, so that’s why we’ve taken this step,” said McAuliffe.

This bill ensures victims receive that information, no matter when their evidence was collected.

The governor also signed HB2217, introduced by Del. David Toscano (D-57). This bill allows more victims to participate in the Office of the Attorney General’s address confidentiality program.

Currently, victims of domestic violence and stalking can choose to have their mail sent to the office to help shield their home address from abusers or attackers.

This bill extends the option to victims of sexual violence and human trafficking.

“Together, these bills will expand protections for victims of sexual assault and crimes all across our commonwealth,” said McAuliffe.

This week is Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Virginia.

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