Member's Press Release

Release Date: 12/17/2018
Contact: Senator Mike Woelfel 304-638-5652

Michael Woelfel

Senator Woelfel Aims to Enhance Protections for Sexual Assault Survivors

CHARLESTON, WV—Senator Mike Woelfel, (D-Cabell) will re-introduce “The Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights,” (deemed Senate Bill 39 for the 2018 legislative session). The legislation is patterned after federal law passed in 2016. Woelfel has previously sponsored the bill in 2017 and 2018, where both times it passed unanimously in the state Senate but was never taken up by the House of Delegates. The bill responds to challenges faced by rape survivors and establishes numerous rights for them, including:

  • The right to a free medical forensic examination (many victims are charged or the procedure).
  • The right to be informed of the results of the forensic exam.
  • The right to have a person accompany them during the forensic medical exam. Woelfel explained, “The presence of a close family member, counselor, or close friend can provide great comfort during this highly intrusive but critical medical procedure.”
  • The right to have an assault evidence collection kit tested and preserved for up to twenty years.
  • The right to a 60-day notice prior to the disposal of any evidence.

    “This legislation will be of great assistance in navigating a most traumatic experience,” said Woelfel. “Nearly 70% of survivors either do not report their rape or decline to press charges. I am hopeful this legislation will move that number downward.”

    Last year, Woelfel sponsored Senate Bill 36, which guarantees protocols and timely processing of DNA rape kit evidence to the benefit of survivors, law enforcement, and prosecutors. S.B. 36, which was signed into law by Governor Jusice on March 27, ended the shelving of several thousand untested rape kits in West Virginia. Previously, “forensic rape kits would sit on the shelf 240 days on average,” explained Woelfel. “This has been a great step forward for survivors, but it isn’t enough.”

    Woelfel is optimistic the legislation will pass the Senate early in the 2019 Session. “In light of the current news surrounding the pervasiveness of sexual assault in our country, it is my belief that expanding protections and paths to justice for survivors of rape is more important than ever,” said the Senator.

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