TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation ensuring that sexual assault victims are not responsible for costs of forensic examinations on Thursday. Currently, each county provides forensic examinations by a physician or certified forensic sexual assault nurse examiners.
“Sexual assault is a violent crime and its victims must be treated with respect and compassion,” said Christie. “This legislation ensures the needs of assault victims are met appropriately and without cost and that forensic evidence is collected and handled correctly.”
“This is simply the right thing to do,” said Asw. Annette Quijano (D-Union). “Sexual assault victims have already suffered enough. I see no reason why we should add to that suffering by essentially forcing them to pay for the investigation into their own assault. We must remember that these women are the victims, not the criminals.”
The measure, S-972/A-2597, was approved in March by the state Senate by a vote of 37-0 and in June by the Assembly by a vote of 78-0.
A 2001 state law established the Statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program. Under that statute, each county provides forensic sexual assault examinations to sexual assault victims. The examinations are conducted by physicians or certified forensic sexual assault nurse examiners.
The program’s intent is to ensure the needs of sexual assault victims are met in a compassionate manner and that forensic evidence is collected and handled appropriately so that it can be used in prosecutions.
The law approved today will turn the current state statute into a permanent law, specifying that victims are not charged any fee for services that are directly associated with forensic sexual assault examinations, including routine medical screening, medications for prophylaxis of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, supplies, equipment and use of space.
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