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Oklahoma bill gives sexual assault survivors new rights to information

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:13 PM CDT
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KSWO) - Oklahoma is joining 31 other states that have laws giving sexual assault survivors the right to a free medical forensic exam and evidence collected.

Governor Kevin Stitt signed the bill at the end of May.

The OSBI already allows survivors to track the location or status of their rape kit. Advocates say for those who don’t use the internet, this law will help keep them updated.

Danielle Tudor is a sexual assault survivor who worked with Representative Cyndi Munson for almost five years writing House Bill 2546.

She said something like this would’ve helped her when she was a teenager dealing with the painful experience alone.

“You’ve been through a traumatic experience,” she said, “and now you’re having to relive that telling somebody else very personal details about what happened to you, and I know for me personally, when I had to go through that, I would’ve benefited greatly from having somebody there that could help me walk through that.”

Starting in November when the law goes into effect, victims of sexual assault in Oklahoma will be entitled to a free rape kit and medication after a sexual assault.

“It also prohibits anyone from trying to discourage a survivor from having a rape kit done and then also having that advocate present at the hospital but also with interviews either with the district attorney’s office or law enforcement that they can have someone with them that’s a support person,” she said.

The Joyful Heart Foundation is a national organization working to end the backlog of rape kits across the United States.

Director of Policy Ilse Knecht said they provided legislative examples and statistics throughout the process.

“What we hear from a lot of survivors across the country is that they get this exam done,” she said. “It’s very uncomfortable and invasive and the best of circumstances, it can take 4 to 6 hours, maybe longer, and they obviously do that with the hope the evidence will be used. Most of them leave the hospital and never hear anything again about their rape kit.”

Now, victims can request and receive the results and status of the evidence collected by local law enforcement or healthcare providers.

According to Tudor, the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Taskforce is working on the documents that will be provided to victims.

“You’re going to get the same piece of information that outlines for you what is available,” she said, “a help crisis line as well as advocate, how to track your rape kit and how you can actually keep in touch with law enforcement to find out what’s happening with your case.”

Knecht said having this information is central to the survivor’s healing and wellbeing.

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