(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester) and Linda Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union) to establish the Sexual Assault Victims' Rights Act and give victims access to information pertinent to their cases.
"Many sexual assault victims find the criminal justice system less forthcoming than it should be with information about their cases, which can leave them feeling victimized all over again," said Vainieri Huttle. "This affirms that victims have the right to relevant information about their cases."
The bill (A-3936) would require sexual assault victims to be notified of certain developments concerning the evidence in their cases. Specifically, the bill would expand the state's Crime Victim's Bill of Rights to give sexual assault victims the right to be informed if
- a DNA profile of an assailant was obtained from the processing of evidence in the sexual assault case
- a DNA profile of an assailant has been entered into any data bank designed or intended to be used for the retention or comparison of case evidence
- there is a match between the DNA profile of an assailant obtained in the sexual assault case to any DNA profile contained in any data bank designed or intended to be used for the retention or comparison of case evidence; and
- sexual assault evidence is submitted to a forensic laboratory, if that evidence is compared against any data bank, and the results of the comparison.
"Sexual assault victims have been through enough. They should not have to fight the very system that is supposed to help them for information about their cases," said Lampitt. "If we want more victims to report abuse, we must create an environment that breeds cooperation, not mistrust."
"Many victims of sexual abuse do not report the abuse to the proper authorities out of fear of not being believed," said Mosquera. "Keeping them in the dark about their cases does not help build the trust that is so needed for victims of sexual abuse to feel comfortable enough to come forward."
"Criminal investigations can be lengthy and consuming," said Stender. "Keeping victims informed can help bring victims of sexual assault some comfort, knowing that progress is being made on their case and that law enforcement is getting closer to bringing their attackers to justice."
The bill was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.