Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced a proposal to expand the rights afforded to victims of sexual assault.

The proposal will add to the Sexual Assault Victim’s Rights Amendment Act passed by the D.C. Council in 2014. The proposed law's coverage will change significantly as a result, covering victims between the ages of 12 and 17.  It would be a crime for a person to remove clothes from the victim without consent.  Also, prosecutors will have to give a reason why specific cases are not prosecuted under the new law. A 2013 Human Rights Watch report found the Metropolitan Police Department was negligent when handling sexual assault cases.  One goal of an expanded law is to make victims more likely to engage in the criminal justice system.  Rape cases have continued to be mishandled as  younger victims lack the same resources offered to adults. Teenagers eventually lose trust in the system. As a result, sexual assault on youths would go unreported, leaving the victim to years of emotional health issues.

An investigative task force for the proposal utilized the case of Danielle Hicks-Best. In 2008 at age 11, Hicks-Best reported to the D.C. police that she was raped by older youths. The victim was arrested in the end, despite having a witness and a hospital report, for lying to police.

 73 sex abuse cases reported to MPD, according to police data. However, about two-thirds of sexual assaults go unreported.

The 2014 bill outlined that victims have the right to have an advocate present during police and hospital interviews, as well as the right to information about rape kits and toxicology reports, and notification when MPD officers contact suspects.  However, the bill did not cover the U.S. Attorney's Office, which prosecutes sexual assaults and other felonies in the District.
The definition of sexual assault would extend to any person at least 12 years of age under the new proposal. The result would ensure that adolescent victims get the same rights as adult victims.  Prosecutors will have the necessary information to appropriately do their job with key pieces like these.  To many, the mayor's proposal feels like an enormous step in the right direction.

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