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Recognizing National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, and we'd like to pay tribute to survivors of sexual assault by recognizing progress that's being made in the movement to make sexual assault a thing of the past.

Sexual assault is still a serious problem that must be addressed. While we still have a long way to go in terms of developing substantive solutions to preventing these crimes and tackling the negative stigma associated with sexual assault, elected officials across the country are taking steps forward to provide appropriate protections and care for survivors.

Here are four ways elected officials across the country are working to bring justice to sexual assault survivors:

1. In California, Asm. Mike Gatto is collaborating with a sexual assault survivor to make sure colleges and universities report sexual assault to police.

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Sponsor: California Asm. Mike Gatto

Asm. Mike Gatto was horrified to learn that colleges were sweeping sexual assaults under the rug, so he contacted a student who, with several of her peers, had filed a federal complaint against UC Berkeley for not taking their assaults seriously. He's written legislation to require campus officials to report all sexual violence to the police unless survivors don't want their assault to be reported or wish to remain anonymous. This bill passed unanimously through Assembly Public Safety Committee and will head to Assembly floor for a vote.

2. California is moving a bill to make sure police process rape kits more quickly.

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Sponsor: California Asm. Nancy Skinner

Right now in California, there's no law that puts a deadline on how quickly rape kits must be processed. No wonder only 21-percent of sexual assaults resulted in arrest in 2012. If this bill passes, it could help bring justice for countless survivors of sexual assault.

3. In Tennessee, the state House and Senate unanimously passed legislation that eliminates the current three-year statute of limitations for survivors of rape.

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Sponsors: Tennessee Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Joe Towns

This new legislation would help survivors of rape to bring their attackers to justice regardless of how much time has passed after the vicious attack. Some victims of rape may need time to cope with their assaults and now will no longer be burdened by the three-year statute. With the statute removed, victims can work with the state to prosecute when they are ready to come forward.

4. Maryland is moving legislation to bring justice to rape survivors.

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Sponsor: Del. Ariana Kelly

Right now, only one hospital in every Maryland county provides the type of exam that can be used to prosecute the attacker. If a rape survivors show up at the wrong emergency room, the survivors could be told to drive to another hospital! This common sense bill requires that every hospital establish procedures to treat survivors of sexual assault and was passed unanimously by both Maryland houses.

We still have a long way to go, but every step and every piece of legislation to curb sexual assault and give justice to survivors is a step to making the world a safer place for us all.

Thank you for joining us in recognizing National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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