Jones: Bills ensure no victim of rape is ignored

LANSING—Comprehensive, bipartisan legislation designed to aid victims of sexual assault were approved unanimously on Tuesday by the Michigan Senate, said Sen. Rick Jones, a key sponsor of the measures.

“After more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit, I joined lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to come together to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “After long and hard work, we have taken an important step toward ensuring justice for survivors. This legislation is about much more than simply getting rape kits analyzed. Each kit represents a brave victim who came forward after an assault. This is ultimately about people’s lives.”

Senate Bill 998, sponsored by Jones, would establish the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Tracking and Reporting Act for the purpose of creating a system to track, audit and fund the submission of all released sexual assault evidence kits.

“My bill would also create a commission consisting of high-level state officials and victim’s rights organization members who are experts in this matter and will place a high priority on the wellbeing of victims throughout the process,” Jones said. “Our efforts are about bringing justice to victims. As a father and former sheriff, I am focused on ensuring all sexual assault kits are tested and encouraging survivors to come forward and report such awful incidents.”

Jones’ other bill in the package, SB 1036, would, upon the victim’s request, require medical testing for venereal disease, hepatitis B and C, and HIV within 48 hours of indictment of a defendant for criminal sexual conduct.

SB 1004, sponsored by Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, would require law enforcement agencies to inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits and other information relating to evidence and investigation of the case. SB 1021 would extend the period evidence kits must be offered to victims to 120 hours after the crime. This would bring Michigan in line with medical advances in kit testing.

House Bill 5445, sponsored by Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, was signed by the governor in July. Public Act 227 of 2014 establishes timelines concerning sexual assault kits from the time a health care facility obtaining consent to release a kit to the time the evidence must be analyzed.

SBs 998, 1004, 1021 and 1036 have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.