A New Directive Issued to Help Sex Assault Survivors in NJ
When a sexual assault takes place, some survivors are so traumatized they may not be capable of dealing with the incident for several years.
Bearing this in mind, state Attorney General Matt Platkin has issued a new directive ensuring sexual assault survivors have access to the comprehensive medical, investigative, and supportive services they need, and that evidence collected in sexual assault cases is preserved and processed in a victim-centered manner.
The directive requires longer retention of evidence, including DNA evidence, from sexual assault medical examinations not processed by a lab at the survivor’s request, extending the current required retention period from five years to 20 years.
New procedures and guidelines
It also establishes statewide procedures and guidelines for tracking, storing, and determining how and when such evidence is submitted for testing, and limits circumstances in which law enforcement can decline to submit evidence for testing in cases where a survivor has consented to it
The directive also prohibits law enforcement officers and prosecutors from declining to submit evidence for testing strictly because they believe the sexual act was consensual, they have no suspects, or the survivor filed a complaint against a current or former spouse or partner.
Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement "the services enforced in this measure are essential in the safety and well-being of survivors, while also supporting law enforcement's efforts in identifying perpetrators, there is no room in our state for violence in any form.”
A traumatic event
“The standards and procedures established in this directive ensure that if or when that time comes – whether it’s immediately after an assault or years down the road – their cases will be vigorously investigated by law enforcement and their opportunity to hold perpetrators accountable will not be foreclosed because evidence is no longer viable or has been destroyed," Platkin said.
New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Pearl Minato said “the statewide standards and procedures we are establishing help ensure that law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey are investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases in a uniform manner that follows best practices and affords equal justice to survivors.”
The directive was established in close collaboration with the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance, which was established by Attorney General Platkin in September 2022.
Executive Director Patricia Teffenhart said the FBI recognizes sexual assault as the second most violent crime, second only to murder. And with this directive “New Jersey has created a survivor-centered policy that recognizes the traumatic impact of this particular type of victimization.”