Patty Murray

07/12/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/12/2018 17:34

Senator Murray Announces Bipartisan Introduction of Bill to Improve Access to Health Care Services for Sexual Assault Survivors

Senator Murray, joined by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, re-introduced the Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA) to expand access to qualified examiner services, develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault, and improve access to care for native women and women living in rural communities

Senator Murray first introduced SASCA after hearing Seattle resident Leah Griffin's personal story in 2015 about surviving a sexual assault and struggling to get access to the health care services she needed in order to seek justice - LINK

In addition to new momentum of SASCA's first bipartisan Senate introduction, Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7) and Peter King (R-NY2) have introduced a corresponding bipartisan bill in the House

A 2016 GAO report requested by Senator Murray and colleagues outlined major flaws in survivor access to sexual assault examination services, including a severe lack, and even absence, of data and information

Senator Murray: 'I'm hopeful that together, with Leah and other advocates, we can continue to build bipartisan momentum for this legislation and getting it signed into law'

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate health committee, today announced the bipartisan reintroduction of the Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA) in both the Senate and House, legislation that would provide guidance and support to states and hospitals providing sexual assault examination services and treatment to survivors. Senators Murray and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced the legislation in the Senate, and Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7) and Peter King (R-NY2) introduced a bipartisan version in the House as well. Senator Murray made the announcement during a news conference call featuring Senator Murkowski, Congresswoman Jayapal, Seattle resident Leah Griffin, a survivor of sexual assault who has been a leading advocate for the legislation, and other health advocates.

'It is absolutely unacceptable that someone would go to seek care-and justice-for sexual assault and be told 'not here' or 'try next door.' The Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act, will help us make sure that no longer happens to survivors across the country seeking help. SASCA takes important steps to make sure we treat sexual assault examinations as a health care priority-not an afterthought or an inconvenience. It does this through support and guidance to hospitals and states to help make sure they are able to provide sexual assault examination services and treatment to survivors-something we know that too many locations are currently unequipped or unprepared for,' said Senator Murray.'I'm hopeful that together, with Leah and other advocates, we can continue to build bipartisan momentum for this legislation and get it signed into law.'

'After my rape, I was turned away from a hospital that did not provide rape kits. I eventually found a hospital that did, but that delay in care contributed to the prosecutor's decision to decline charges in my case. We have a justice system that demands empirical evidence to prosecute rape, but denies victims access to evidence collection,' said Ms. Griffin.

Senator Murray first introduced SASCA in 2016, which helps improve and expand access to health care services for survivors of sexual assault, after hearing Leah Griffin's personal story about surviving a sexual assault and struggling to get access to the health care services she needed in order to seek justice, including a forensic examination kit. Senator Murray has been on the front lines of the fight to strengthen survivors' access to qualified examiner services, leading efforts to request a 2015 GAO report that highlighted major gaps in survivors' access to sexual assault examination services, and helping to secure a $5 million investment to increase the number of nurses trained to collect and preserve forensic evidence when survivors present at hospitals in the FY18 spending bill.

'The reality is, if you have people living in your district, SASCA has great impact for you. One out of every six American women and millions of American men have been victims of completed or attempted rape in their lifetimes, and a large majority of U.S. emergency rooms do not have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners-SANEs-to collect evidence,' said Representative Jayapal.'By passing SASCA, we would strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce in every state, create national standards of care, and grow access to sexual assault training and care nationwide. When you go to a hospital-for any reason-you expect to receive helpful, quality care. There shouldn't be a lower standard for those who experience the trauma of rape or sexual assault.'

'The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence wholeheartedly supports the Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). All survivors deserve access to competent and empathetic care in the aftermath of a sexual assault, and this legislation will help make sure they receive it,' said Monika Johnson Hostler, President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, in a statement.

'We need to do a better job in the U.S. of providing survivors of sexual assault access to necessary forensic nursing services,' said Susan Chasson, President of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, in a statement. 'With the well-documented health consequences resulting from sexual violence, the IAFN strongly supports this legislation as it draws much needed attention to the health system response to sexual assault survivors. This legislation will assist states and health systems to be better prepared to care for survivors of assault.'

SASCA would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a national training and continuing education pilot program to expand access to health care for survivors of sexual assault by developing federal standards around examinations and treatment. It would also establish a pilot grant program to expand medical forensic exam training and services to new providers to increase access, and create a national sexual assault taskforce to better understand sexual assault healthcare services and treatment and address survivors' needs. To address the current lack of data on the availability of sexual assault nurse examinations (SANE) and sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE), SASCA would provide for state-level review of current practices to better understand deficits in care, develop best practices, and improve public awareness of forensic examinations. SASCA would also require hospitals to report on SAFE/SANE training and access to these vital examinations.

SASCA has been endorsed by the Washington State Hospital Association, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, RAINN, the International Association of Forensic Nurses, and the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Click HERE for text of S. 3203 (SASCA).

Click HERE for fact sheet.