NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Several new Texas laws aiming to protect sexual assault victims went into effect on Sept. 1, which healthcare providers and victim advocate groups said will benefit victims and improve the ways that law enforcement officials track cases of sexual assault.
For example, House Bill 3809 has doubled the amount of time child survivors of sexual assault can report the assault against them. Previously 15 years, victims now have 30 years after their 18th birthday to report their abusers. In addition, institutions who protect the perpetrator can also be held liable.
“Many times children are reluctant to report a sexual assault because their abuser has threatened them," said Tony Harry, director of CASA of Deep East Texas.
Other times, children do not report instances of abuse because they don’t want to disrupt their household, particularly if the abuser is a relative or family members, Harry explained.
“The shame they left as a child about what was happening, and they didn’t want anyone to know. They carry that into their adulthood, as well,” she added. “As they have tried to recover and to heal from that and put it behind them, bringing it up again could bring up bad memories, and quite possibly keeps them from wanting to report.”
Lisa King, a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) says, “The average age of an adult survivor to report is 52.”
Another law, House Bill 8, creates stricter guidelines for testing and sharing information about rape kits. House Bill 8 also targets untested rape kits by establishing a timeline for law enforcement to test them in a timely fashion.
Companion laws implement a tracking system for those rape kits, while other laws set up a sexual assault survivor task force and a telehealth call center for sexual assault survivors and require law enforcement officials to enter sexual assaults into a Federal Bureau of Investigation database.
Kim Riddle, SANE Coordinator for Harold’s House & Family Counseling Center said, When we do collect that DNA evidence that law enforcement has a week to come pick that up. They have a time limit to get it to the crime lab who in turn has 90 days to get that information back to law enforcement."
And survivors will be kept informed.
Every kit has a bar code which survivors can use to log on to track their evidence.
And one million dollars will increase the number of sexual assault examiners in rural areas, like East Texas.
"What the funding is doing is to go into the education systems. I know A&M has a fabulous new program where they’re doing a lot of outreach for sexual assault nurses, " explained King.
The new laws may give anyone from a small child, to a troubled adult, the justice they need to remain a true survivor following sexual abuse.