Oct 20, 2023
A new law aimed at making access to rape kits easier for student survivors of college campus sexual assault has been signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Assembly Bill 1138 (AB 1138) mandates that most California colleges and universities receiving state funds for student financial assistance must provide free and anonymous transportation for survivors to and from sexual assault treatment centers. The treatment centers must offer Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exams for survivors harmed on campus.
SAFE and SANE exams may include various types of critical medical care for survivors of sexual violence, including:
AB 1138 was written by Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D. (D-La Mesa).
“I am grateful to the Governor and all my colleagues in the Legislature for recognizing the importance of these bills. I look forward to engaging with the administration and stakeholders on the implementation of these new laws over the next several months,” Assemblymember Weber said after various 2024 laws were signed.
Drivers eligible to transport survivors to treatment centers include employees of local organizations contracted by colleges and universities as well as campus health center employees, according to the bill’s language. California colleges and universities will also be required to report annually on the transportation services provided to the Legislature, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The following California campus sexual violence statistics were reported by the L.A. Times and confirmed through information provided to the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2021, 1024 higher education campuses across the Golden State recorded:
“College campuses are often miles away from the nearest center and for students without a reliable or quick method of transportation, that distance can be insurmountable,” Assemblymember Weber said in a statement to The Times. “The last thing a victim of sexual assault should worry about is the transportation to the local … exam center.”
Weber added that the AB 1138 legislation is a “continuation of California’s efforts to remove the barriers to reporting sexual assault and to increase access to resources to help survivors achieve justice.”
“I was proud to author this legislation and applaud those that helped get this bill across the finish line,” she said to the Times.
“Most colleges across the county don’t offer rape kits on campus, with some healthcare experts saying it would be a financial and logistical burden due to the national shortage of nurses,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
In May 2023, an investigative report by the Times noted that:
>Prior attempts at state legislation to require forensic exams on college campuses have failed, but student advocacy groups aren’t giving up. They are lobbying politicians and putting pressure on university administrators to create more on-campus treatment for sexual violence, pointing to research that shows college students are both more likely to be sexually assaulted and less likely to report the assault to police.
The sexual assault treatment center transportation requirements for California colleges and universities are expected to take effect in 2024.
In November 2022, California passed State Bill 215 (SB 215), which launched the KitStatus online portal allowing survivors to track the status DNA forensic rape kits completed after 2018. The portal is hosted by the California Department of Justice and affords survivors the ability to search for the results of their DNA rape kits.
The California DNA rape kit portal does not include any personally identifiable information of survivors, Attorney General Rob Bonta confirmed in 2022. Such safeguards were put in place in an effort to protect against “potential misuse,” the attorney general said after SB 215 was passed.
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) website also notes:
If you are a sexual assault survivor whose DNA rape kit was collected prior to January 1, 2018, the California DOJ recommends contacting the local law enforcement agency investigating your case.
To speak to a campus sexual assault attorney, contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free and confidential consultation. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about the civil litigation process 24/7, and are dedicated to fighting aggressively to help survivors secure the justice and maximum financial compensation they deserve.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.