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Romney Files Bill to Protect Rights of Sexual Assault Victims

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ROMNEY FILES BILL TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

Legislation would require HIV testing of rapists and sex offenders

Governor Mitt Romney today filed right-to-know legislation to provide crucial information and peace of mind to victims of sexual assault. Under the proposed law, every person indicted for or formally charged of rape or sexual assault would be tested for any sexually transmitted disease, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

"Victims of rape or sexual assault have the right to know if their attacker is carrying HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease," said Romney. "After such a devastating attack, they at least deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing whether or not they are at an increased health risk."

Upon the request of the prosecutor and the victim, the court would order that the sexual offender be tested for the presence of any sexually transmitted disease, including HIV. The test results would be reported to the court as soon as possible and then disclosed to the victim.

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, a criminologist who has conducted extensive research on sexual assault and domestic violence said, "For far too long, victims of sexual assault in Massachusetts have suffered not only with the trauma of the attack, but also the specter of HIV infection. Victims have a right to know critical information that allows them to make informed medical decisions about their bodies."

The HIV testing requirement would cover a number of sex crimes in addition to rape and sexual assault, including indecent assault on a child under 14, indecent assault on a mentally retarded person and incestuous intercourse.

Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that does not require HIV testing for accused rapists. The recent alleged kidnapping and rape of a 25-year-old Framingham woman is a prime example of the need for such a law. The man accused of the assault has an admitted history of drug use, leading to fears that he is HIV-positive. Defense attorneys have been successful in barring testing that would allow the victim of the attack to know the HIV status of her alleged attacker.

"This bill will provide victims who choose to access it with important information that may assist them in making better informed medical decisions and could provide them with significant psychological relief and a clearer understanding of the totality of their circumstances," said Nancy L. Scannell, Director of Government Affairs for Jane Doe Inc., Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

"Because information is power, the most important aspect of this bill may well be its potential to provide victims with a tool to begin to reclaim the power to make decisions about their bodies that was taken from them when they were raped," Scannell also noted.

http://www.mass.gov/portal/site/massgovportal/menuitem.b6302844a78a31c14db4a11030468a0c/?pageID=pressreleases&agId=Agov2&prModName=gov2pressrelease&prFile=gov_pr_060105_sexual_asslt_victms_rghts.xml

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