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house Bill H.R. 7292

Establishing a Federal Task Force on Sexual Assault

Argument in favor

Sexual assault is a serious crime that affects many Americans, both male and female. Hospitals should be properly equipped to handle these cases, including collecting vital evidence for future criminal proceedings. A task force is needed to ensure rape evidence and cases are handled properly.

Argument opposed

There are already numerous efforts to clear the national rape kit backlog, so part of this task force’s mandate is unnecessary. There’s also a bipartisan roundtable in Congress on sexual assault — so there’s no need to spend federal money and time to convene a task force on the same topic.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
    IntroducedDecember 13th, 2018

What is House Bill H.R. 7292?

This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish the “Megan Rondini and Leah Griffin National Sexual Assault Care and Treatment Task Force” to identify barriers to improving access to sexual assault forensic examiners, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), and other forensic medical examiners.

The task force’s membership would include representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Health and Human Services Immediate Office of the Secretary, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, the Office for Victims of Crime of the Department of Justice, the Office on Women’s Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women of the Department of Justice.

It’d also include a survivor of sexual assault, as well as representatives from regional and national organizations that collectively have expertise in forensic nursing, rape trauma or crisis counseling, investigating rape and gender violence cases, survivors’ advocacy and support, sexual assault prevention education, rural health, and responding to sexual violence in Native communities; representatives from hospitals, patient groups, and emergency department physicians; and state representatives.

The task force’s objectives would be to:

  • Identify barriers to the recruitment, training, and retention of sexual assault forensic examiners, sexual assault response teams, sexual assault nurse examiners, and others who perform such examinations;

  • Make recommendations for improving access to medical forensic examinations, including the feasibility of, or barriers to, utilizing mobile units and telehealth services;

  • Make recommendations for improving coordination of services, other protocols regarding the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors, and the preservation of evidence between law enforcement officials and health care providers;

  • Make recommendations for updating national minimum standards for forensic medical examiner training and forensic medical evidence collection relating to sexual assault;

  • Make recommendations for the development of resources and best practices described in subsection for inclusion on tHHS’ public website;

  • Make recommendations on the collection and retention of sexual assault kits, including anonymous or unreported sexual assault kits;

  • Make recommendations on processes and best practices for communicating to sexual assault survivors who seek care in the emergency room information about the availability of forensic medical evidence collection as part of the care and treatment of such survivors;

  • Make recommendations to develop, promote, and inculcate trauma-informed approaches (as defined in subsection (g)) in the treatment of sexual assault victims through training, leadership and supervision;

  • Make recommendations to inform the development of protocols to use when patients seeking medical forensic care have not yet reported a crime to law enforcement, including developing guidance related to presenting patients with their options when they request a medical forensic exam; and

  • Obtain feedback and review how the best practices, protocols, care, and treatment for sexual assault are impacting sexual assault survivors in States with laws or procedures that address any of the task force’s previous objectives. This includes Texas, Washington, and Illinois, and the  impact of charging patients for sexual assault forensic exams.

The task force would submit its findings to the HHS Secretary no later than 18 months act this bill’s enactment, after which time the HHS Secretary would post resources and best practices for treating individuals for sexual assault to HHS’ public website. These resources and best practices would include:

  • Resources for health care providers, including best practices for training personnel on sexual assault forensic evidence collection, best practices relating to providing counseling and appropriate referrals to such individuals; and other resources and best practices determined appropriate by the HHS Secretary;

  • Resources for sexual assault surviviors, including  information about the forensic exam furnished by a sexual assault forensic examiner, including the process and potential benefits of collecting evidence, information on available State-wide databases of sexual assault nurse examiner-ready or sexual assault forensic examiner-ready facilities, survivor advocacy group websites and hotlines, next-steps guides for survivors with best practices for preserving evidence and seeking treatment after an assault, and other resources and best practices determined appropriate by the HHS Secretary.

On an annual basis, the task force would meet to address gaps in health care health care provider care relating to sexual assault and report findings, recommendations, and conclusions to the HHS Secretary in a timely manner.

Impact

Sexual assault survivors; sexual assault victims; police departments; hospitals; health care providers; forensic investigators; sexual assault forensic examiners; sexual assault nurse examiners; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; HHS; Health Resources and Services Administration; IHS; DOJ; and the HHS secretary.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 7292

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced this bill to help improve evidence collection and sexual assault response efforts at hospitals. Leah Griffin, an advocate whom this bill is partially named for, points out that evidence is vital to prosecuting rapes:

“Everyone can agree that in order to prosecute rapists, one needs to have evidence. If the evidence collection isn’t available to survivors, that lowers a prosecutor’s ability to prosecute rapists, and this is a law and justice issue that I think everyone can agree on.”

Terri Stewart, coordinator of a SANE program in Washington State, notes that these programs are expensive and difficult to manage, as “It’s costly—it’s definitely a costly endeavor to cover every hospital. SANE programs are hard because our nurses all have other jobs. There’s a lot of turnover.”

This bill has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Judiciary with the support of three cosponsors, including one Democrat and two Republicans.


Of Note:

Leah Griffin, one of the women this bill is named after, is sexual assault survivor, advocate, and librarian in Washington State who campaigns to assist hospitals in providing adequate care for sexual assault survivors by implementing federal standards of care. Griffin came up with the idea for this legislation in April 2014, after she was raped and turned away from a local hospital because “they didn’t do rape kits.”

In 2016, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only 17 percent of Tier One and Tier Two hospitals are fully equipped with Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Among the bill’s provisions, it would establish a grant program to expand access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) training, creating a national task force to address the quality of the exams, and establishing a national best-practices clearinghouse so that healthcare providers can improve the quality of care offered to sexual assault victims in their most vulnerable moments.

Megan Rodini, the second woman whom this bill takes its name from, was a University of Alabama student who committed suicide after alleging sexual assault by a prominent Tuscaloosa businessman, T.J. Bunn, J.R.


In 2017, four members of Congress launched a Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, hosting roundtables on addressing the rape-kit backlog and on national access to SANEs.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / nito100)

AKA

Megan Rondini and Leah Griffin Sexual Assault Victims Protection Act of 2018

Official Title

To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish the Megan Rondini and Leah Griffin national sexual assault care and treatment task force, and for other purposes.

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