Kuster addresses need to believe sexual assault survivors and hold perpetrators accountable

Rep. Annie Kuster addresses her fellow members of Congress regarding the need for law enforcement to fully investigate crimes of sexual assault. (COURTESY PHOTO)

WASHINGTON D.C. — On Wednesday, Sept. 25, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, joined fellow members of Congress and sexual violence prevention advocates to discuss the need to believe survivors and hold perpetrators accountable to prevent future assaults.

Kuster’s remarks came prior to a screening of “Unbelievable,” a series streaming on Netflix that details the experiences of survivors from the 2008-2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) — Kuster’s co-chair on the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence — also spoke at the event.

Cornyn and Maloney are the main sponsors of H.R. 777, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019.

This legislation, which Kuster is a cosponsor of, would provide much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct forensic analysis of DNA evidence collected from crime scenes, including untested rape kits.

“When a survivor takes the brave step of coming forward to report their assault, we have an obligation to believe them, and law enforcement has an obligation to fully investigate,” said Kuster. “Failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions allows them to continue committing assaults and puts the safety of the general public at risk. I’m grateful for the work my colleagues and the advocates I joined today are doing on this important issue, and I will continue my efforts to support survivors and end the unacceptable reality of sexual violence.”

In April, the House passed H.R. 1585, a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which Kuster cosponsored.

The reauthorization included Kuster’s bipartisan Improve Data on Sexual Violence Act, which would create an interagency working group to study the different terms used to describe acts of sexual violence across four government agencies and provide recommendations to Congress about how to harmonize them.

Kuster has long been a champion for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, sharing her own personal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial — which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers.

The Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and released their first legislative agenda last year.

The Task Force’s areas of focus include: K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment and law enforcement training.

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