Bill to expand access to rape kits, training for nurses

KOMO Staff

SEATTLE -- A local sexual assault survivor and advocate of the "Me Too" movement joined several lawmakers Thursday to push for a reintroduced bill that would expand access to rape kits.

It’s been 4 years since a devastating experience -- one that has made Leah Griffin fight for change ever since and become a survivor’s rights advocate.

“In 2014 after I was raped, I went to the closest emergency room and was turned away. They shrugged their shoulders at me and said, 'we don’t do rape kits here,' ” said Griffin. “I was shocked and betrayed.”

She went home and several hours later got herself to only the E.R in King County that provided rape kits at the time--- Harborview Medical Center.

“I had the kit done but because of the delay in care, that contributed to prosecutor’s decision to decline charges in my case,” said Griffin.

Griffin later learned that only about 14 percent of emergency rooms all over the country have access to rape kits, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

“Which means that survivors are being turned away from hospitals all over the country,” said Griffin. “This probe especially impacts survivors in rural areas, especially indigenous women.”

Since then, Griffin has worked closely with Senator Murray to try and pass the Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act which would increase access to rape kits.

“This bill would also create federal standards of care of victims could receive standard care regardless of where they live in the country,” said Griffin.

The bill would also expand training for staff to work with sexual assault survivors.

"It’s important to have the specially trained personnel to administer these rape kits. Victims are coming in traumatized," said Griffin.

“SACS, our legislation, takes important steps to make sure that we treat sex assault survivors as a health care priority-- not an afterthought or inconvenience.” said Senator Patty Murray. “Our bill would make a huge difference for survivors across the country.”

That bill now has support from both Democrats as well as Republicans.

“Before my attack, I had no idea how bad the system was. There was no system. Everything in the process of reporting a sexual assault was flawed --from the hostile to the police to the prosecutors,” said Griffin.

Griffin says she will continue to fight to make sure every sexual assault survivor has access to the medical care they need.

“My personal response to trauma is to advocate for change and it’s been incredibly helpful,” said Griffin.

Senator Murray first introduced a similar bill in 2015 but it stalled. The re-introduced bill now has the support of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal as well as Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.

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