ALBANY — A bipartisan group of legislators and a rape victim with a powerful story on Tuesday pushed to end the ordeal for sexual assault victims after the crime, which includes the chance that critical evidence will be destroyed without notice.
“The best I can describe this is a living nightmare,” Abby Haglage, 30, a Brooklyn writer, said at a news conference.
Haglage was raped in 2013 in Manhattan. The morning after the assault, she underwent three to four hours of “poking and prodding” as a nurse prepared specimens for a rape kit that could be used in court.
She said she was asked if she wanted the rape kit sent to the New York City Police Department, which would require her to complete a police report immediately. But Haglage said she wasn’t ready, hours after the assault.
“I knew that someday that I would want justice,” she said.
Two years later, she was ready.
“But by then it was too late,” Haglage said. Her kit had been destroyed, she said.
“I will never stop my attacker. I will never stop him from plucking another woman from a street corner,” she said.
A package of bills to address the issue has sponsors including Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).
The measures would require rape kits to be stored for 20 years, instead of the current 30 days in a hospital; prohibit victims from being charged insurance copays to help cover the cost of compiling evidence in rape kits; create a secure statewide storage facility for kits; and create a pilot “telemedicine” program to provide expertise to hospitals as they collect evidence for kits.
“This is the least the state can do,” said Assemb. Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), a co-sponsor of the package. “Victims must be informed of their rights, they must have access to information about the status of evidence analysis and untested rape kits must never be destroyed prematurely.”
Hannon said the cost of the bills would be less than $1 million, but the proposal isn’t included so far in the proposed $168 billion state budget.
“It’s going to be a push in this year of scarce resources, but you can see why we are doing it,” Hannon said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes to hold rape kits for at least five years or until the victim turns 19.
Rank-and-file legislators will try to persuade Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to include the measures in the budget proposals to Cuomo.
After that, the legislative leaders will negotiate with Cuomo for a state budget, which is due April 1.