Berman Introduces Bill to Enhance Care for Sexual Assault Survivors

Thursday, February 14, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) has introduced Assembly Bill 538 that will improve the availability, efficiency, and quality of medical evidentiary examinations for sexual assault survivors.

“After enduring a sexual assault, survivors deserve timely access to trauma-informed, evidence-based care,” said Assemblymember Berman. “Ensuring that they do can prevent adverse health outcomes and allow for the proper collection of evidence that is integral to law enforcement’s ability to apprehend offenders, for district attorneys to successfully prosecute defendants, and for survivors to seek justice in court.”

According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one in three women and one in six men in the United States have experienced sexual violence.

After experiencing sexual violence, many survivors choose to have an invasive and lengthy (several hours) medical evidentiary examination performed, during which qualified healthcare professionals gather the patient’s medical and recent sexual history, record the patient’s account of the sexual assault, perform a full body examination, provide routine medical care, and collect and document evidence.

Due to evidence degradation, timely access to medical evidentiary examinations is critical. Unfortunately, access to qualified healthcare providers that conduct medical evidentiary examinations is limited, and some survivors must travel long distances to receive a medical evidentiary examination.

Assembly Bill 538 would, in part, update existing law to reflect best practices, expand the types of qualified healthcare professionals that can perform medical evidentiary examinations, and enhance professional education and training. The measure would also protect the confidentiality of forensic records.

“The California Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Association, which represents the 49 sexual assault forensic examination teams in California, is pleased to sponsor AB 538,” said Kim Walker on behalf of the California Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Association. “We are grateful for Assemblymember Berman’s leadership in authoring legislation that is critical to providing survivors with supportive care after a sexual assault.”

Insufficient access to timely and quality medical evidentiary examinations is an issue across the United States. On February 7, 2019, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), among others, introduced bipartisan legislation – the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act – to improve and expand access to health care services for sexual assault survivors.

 

Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024