Governor McAuliffe signs two victims' rights bills

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two bills commemorating Crime Victims' Rights Week (Photo: Virginia Office of the Attorney General)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) -- Governor Terry McAuliffe signed two bills Thursday, commemorating Crime Victims' Rights Week, from Attorney General Mark Herring and sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola and Del. David Toscano.

SB 1501 will empower survivors of sexual violence by ensuring they receive information on the results of the testing on their physical evidence recovery kit (PERK) regardless of when its collected, McAuliffe said.

HB 2217 will allow more vulnerable victims to participate in the Office of Attorney General's address confidentiality program.

"Every person deserves to live a life free from violence. Today, thanks to the leadership of Attorney General Herring, Senator Favola, Delegate Toscano, along with our many partners in law enforcement and victim advocacy, sexual assault survivors are entitled to greater privacy protections and will have more access to key physical evidence in their cases," said Governor McAuliffe. "Their work will ensure more Virginians and public safety officers remain safe and will give victims additional tools to pursue justice and rebuild their lives."

SB 1501 ensures that a victim whose PERK kit is tested as part of Attorney General Herring's $3.4 million project to clear Virginia's backlog of untested PERK kits will be notified when their PERK kit testing has been completed and that they can receive any law-enforcement analysis that comes from the results.

The bill requires law enforcement make a good faith attempt to contact a victim whose tested kit yielded a result.

"This PERK legislation empowers survivors by giving them the option of learning the results of identifying DNA analysis," said Senator Barbara Favola, who introduced SB1501. "Survivors can gain closure and, in some cases, the opportunity to pursue prosecution. Giving the justice system more tools to hold perpetrators accountable keeps everyone safer. I was proud to introduce and advocate for this bill the General Assembly."

HB 2217 expands the participants of the Address Confidentiality Program to include victims of sexual violence and human trafficking.

The Address Confidentiality Program is a confidential mail-forwarding service for victims who have recently relocated to a location unknown to their abuser or stalker in order to keep their new address confidential.

"These two bills are critical steps in ensuring that survivors of horrific crimes like sexual assault get the justice, protection, and support they deserve. These bills are going to help give victims back the power that their attacker tried to take and help restore a sense of safety, security, and control as they pursue justice and healing," said Attorney General Herring. "I am so proud these two bills are becoming law, and I want to thank Governor McAuliffe, Senator Favola, and Delegate Toscano for standing with me as leaders in this fight for victims' rights."

Del. Toscano, who introduced the bill, said it will provide greater protections to those who wish to remain free of contact with their former abusers.

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