Many hospitals don't have rape kits. Proposed legislation aims to change that

By Natalie Brand

/ CBS News

Legislation could expand rape kit access

In 2014, Leah Griffin of Seattle says she was raped and went to the closest hospital for a rape kit, only to be turned away. "They looked at me and shrugged their shoulders and said, 'We don't do rape kits here,'" Griffin recounted.

Griffin says she later went to a second hospital that did administer the special examination to collect and preserve forensic evidence, but because of the delay in care, her case was never prosecuted.

Now, she's fighting for justice of a different kind, national legislation to expand access to services for survivors of sexual assault. "Essentially we have a system that requires empirical evidence from survivors of sexual assault and then denies us access to that evidence collection," said Griffin.

Trending News

Following her experience, Griffin reached out to Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, who soon discovered the problem exists nationwide.

"Not all hospitals have rape kits. Many hospitals don't have trained personnel who know what to do with a victim of sexual assault and don't realize the potential of harm if they don't deal with them correctly, both compassionately from a health care perspective and from the perspective of getting justice at the end of the day," Murray told CBS News.

A Government Accountability Office report in 2016, requested by Senator Murray, also discovered a severe lack of information surrounding the issue, as well as a shortage of resources.

The GAO report studied six states and found the number of examiners does not meet the need, especially in rural areas.

"It has caused an environment, I think, in parts of rural Alaska where, where women who have become victims just give up," said Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Murkowski says in some parts of her state, it requires a plane ride to obtain a rape examination. "So that woman who has just been violated is told, 'Don't bathe; don't change your clothes. Sit here until we can arrange for a flight out,'" detailed Murkowski. "And, it's not as if there's any helicopter access. When I say a flight out, that individual, that woman may be sitting there waiting for a day."

Murkowski is now a co-sponsor of a bill Senator Murray wrote to address the issue: The Survivors' Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA), making the effort bipartisan.

The legislation would study the problem nationwide, since the true scope is not even known. It would also establish national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault and expand access to services, including the specialized nurses who administer rape examinations.

SASCA would require hospitals to provide information about their capacity to provide sexual assault care and would provide training grants to organizations that serve rural and tribal communities.

According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, it's estimated only 17 to 20 percent of hospitals have sexual assault nurse examiners on staff.

"What I'm hearing from hospitals is well there's a cost," said Senator Murray. "Yeah, there's a cost. But there's a cost to every individual who is raped, sexually assaulted and doesn't get their health care and doesn't get justice."

Senator Murray believes her bill has new momentum this year, especially in the era of #MeToo. Leah Griffin, who continues to advocate for the legislation, says she'll keep working until the system changes.

"People really understand that this is a problem and it's not a controversial one. If a rape survivor goes to the hospital she shouldn't be turned away without access to evidence collection," said Griffin.

In addition to Murray and Murkowski, SASCA's current list of co-sponsors include presidential candidates Senators Kamala Harris, D-California, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

First published on May 14, 2019 / 3:57 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

"My revenge was success": Female fire battalion chiefs inspire others

When Kishia Clemencia and Queen Anunay joined the fire department in Washington, D.C., only 35 out of more than 1,500 firefighters were women

3M ago

Proposed law seeks to increase access to rape kits

Bipartisan bill would establish national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault and expand access to services, including the specialized nurses who administer rape examinations

14M ago

Homeless teen track star wins scholarship

She was left alone to provide for her siblings and nephew – but she still went to school and ran track

24M ago

"The Simpsons" predicted a "Game of Thrones" twist 2 years ago

"The Simpsons" have done it again

updated 29M ago

Ex-coach pleads guilty to creating fake profiles in admissions scheme

She is the fourth coach to plead guilty in the biggest college admissions scheme ever prosecuted in the U.S.

58M ago

DeSantis says Russians accessed Florida voting databases in 2016

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott, now a senator, was not aware of the hacking in his state while he was governor

2H ago

"The Good Place" Jameela Jamil opens up about her abortion

"The Good Place" actress called it "the best decision I have ever made"

2H ago

China and Russia waging a "shadow war" against U.S., author says

"I think Americans are aware of some of the fronts of the war, certainly election interference, which continues, but they're not aware of others"

2H ago

In a crowded field, Democratic candidates look to Iowa's rural voters

"We don't need saviors. We need people that are going to understand and work with us"

3H ago

House Judiciary Committee sets date for McGahn to testify

McGahn, the former White House counsel, has not yet confirmed his attendance before the committee

4H ago

Saudi Arabia says its oil pipeline was hit by drones

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih vowed that production and export of Saudi oil wouldn't be interrupted

19M ago

American pastor banned from Ireland

The pastor called for the killing of President Obama and praised the Pulse Nightclub gunman

2H ago

China and Russia waging a "shadow war" against U.S., author says

"I think Americans are aware of some of the fronts of the war, certainly election interference, which continues, but they're not aware of others"

2H ago

American says record-breaking dive "opening the door for science"

Victor Vescovo dove 35,853 feet beneath the waves in a submarine to the lowest part of the ocean in the Pacific's Mariana Trench

4H ago

Pompeo, Lavrov spar on Iran and Venezuela

Pompeo and Lavrov met in Sochi after a scrapped meeting in Moscow

1H ago

"The Simpsons" predicted a "Game of Thrones" twist 2 years ago

"The Simpsons" have done it again

updated 29M ago

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream in May

Apr 26 36 photos

"The Good Place" Jameela Jamil opens up about her abortion

"The Good Place" actress called it "the best decision I have ever made"

2H ago

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

Tim Conway, star of "The Carol Burnett Show," dies at 85

Conway's publicist said the comedian died Tuesday morning after a long illness

1H ago

Disney gets control of Hulu in deal with Comcast

Entertainment giant, which also plans to launch Disney Plus in the fall, pushes deeper into streaming video

5H ago

WhatsApp flaw let hackers install spyware on cellphones

Signs point to Israeli company NSO, which works with governments, often to spy on human rights activists; spyware kicked in when people made or got calls

4H ago

San Francisco considers facial recognition ban

Civil liberty watchdogs argue the technology can be inaccurate

21H ago

Amazon warehouses reportedly trash millions of unsold products

Retailer under fire after exposes of massive waste in the U.K. and France, where new toys and TVs were sent to dumps

updated 10M ago

Facebook now paying $18 an hour to block suicide videos

Some workers responsible for cleaning up disturbing material have reported low pay and difficult working conditions

May 13

American says record-breaking dive "opening the door for science"

Victor Vescovo dove 35,853 feet beneath the waves in a submarine to the lowest part of the ocean in the Pacific's Mariana Trench

4H ago

NASA vows to make ambitious plan to return to the moon "a reality"

The newly announced Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, intends to land astronauts on the South Pole of the moon by 2024

6H ago

The moon is shrinking — and may be generating "moonquakes"

As the lunar interior ever-so-slowly contracts, "moonquakes" are produced, NASA data suggests.

8H ago

"The planet's on f***ing fire!" Bill Nye's climate rant goes viral

He's not the same kid-friendly "Science Guy" millennials grew up with

6H ago

American breaks record with deepest-ever sub dive, finds plastic

The diver's team found four new species and something else no other expedition has seen — pollution

20H ago

Proposed law seeks to increase access to rape kits

Bipartisan bill would establish national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault and expand access to services, including the specialized nurses who administer rape examinations

14M ago

Dog disease that can infect people confirmed in Iowa

State veterinarian says several cases of canine brucellosis have been confirmed at a commercial breeding facility for small dogs

1H ago

"The Good Place" Jameela Jamil opens up about her abortion

"The Good Place" actress called it "the best decision I have ever made"

2H ago

Alabama poised to vote on nation's most restrictive abortion bill

If Alabama's bill passes, a doctor who performed one would face up to 99 years in prison

4H ago

Tracking down the source of misinformation fueling measles outbreak

For at least the last four years, what's come to be known as the "PEACH pamphlet" has been circulating in the Northeast, targeting orthodox Jewish communities

8H ago

Brace for higher prices for iPhones, shoes and more if tariffs kick in

Thousands of products the U.S. imports from China could soon cost more — here's how much it could run you

1H ago

Think Starbucks is expensive? This coffee is $75 a cup

Unroasted beans from Panama set a world record for its price tag of $803 a pound — and after roasting, it fetches $1,200

2H ago

Nike responds to maternity leave backlash

Nike tells female athletes to dream big – until they want a baby, Olympic runner Alysia Montano alleges

4H ago

Disney gets control of Hulu in deal with Comcast

Entertainment giant, which also plans to launch Disney Plus in the fall, pushes deeper into streaming video

5H ago

Trump targets $300 billion of Chinese goods for new tariffs

Analysts expect a volatile stock market as the world's two biggest economic powers escalate their trade war

7H ago

Proposed law seeks to increase access to rape kits

Bipartisan bill would establish national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault and expand access to services, including the specialized nurses who administer rape examinations

14M ago

Ex-coach pleads guilty to creating fake profiles in admissions scheme

She is the fourth coach to plead guilty in the biggest college admissions scheme ever prosecuted in the U.S.

58M ago

Traveling carnival worker killed 3 in 18 days, police say

James Michael Wright faces three counts each of of capital murder, use of a firearm during the commission of a felony and concealing a body

1H ago

Pilot accused of 3 murders had criminal record prior to being hired

Christian R. Martin had been found guilty of mishandling classified information and simple assault

1H ago

Carnival worker allegedly killed 3 women

Investigators in southern Virginia say 23-year-old James Michael Wright confessed to killing two Tennessee women and a Georgia teen he met through his work for a traveling carnival. CBS affiliate WJHL spoke with the cousin of victim Athina Hopson.

1H ago 01:27

NASA vows to make ambitious plan to return to the moon "a reality"

The newly announced Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, intends to land astronauts on the South Pole of the moon by 2024

6H ago

Trump backs early moon landing with funding request

Trump administration asks Congress to kick-start NASA moon mission with $1.6 billion in additional 2020 funding

18H ago

Shrinking moon may be causing "moonquakes"

NASA says the moon is shrinking and it may be creating so-called "moonquakes." Scientists say the moon's interior is cooling and causing it to shrivel up like a raisin. The shrinking has caused ridges on the moon's surface called "thrust faults" — where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part. Scientists now believe those faults are to blame for the tremors.

14H ago 00:44

Virgin Galactic announces new steps toward offering thrill rides to space

New Mexico officials have eagerly anticipated the arrival of space tourism by Virgin Galactic for more than a decade

May 10

SpaceX cargo ship reaches space station

SpaceX delivers 5,500 pounds of equipment and supplies to the space station

May 6

Britain's royal great-grandchildren

Prince Harry's new baby Archie is the eighth great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

May 8 9 photos

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

Dale Pike murder: Evidence photos in the case against Enrico Forti

In 1998, Dale Pike came to Miami to discuss a business deal with Enrico Forti — the next day he was dead, and Forti was the prime suspect

May 3 17 photos

Worst movie sequels since 2000, ranked

These are the lowest-rated sequels this century, according to Metacritic's rankings

Apr 30 51 photos

Private secrets shared via postcard

Since 2004, hundreds of thousands of anonymous contributors with something to get off their chest have sent postcards to the website PostSecret.com

Apr 28 32 photos

Popular

US reportedly reviews anti-Iran military plan

The New York Times reports Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has prepared a plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran were to attack the U.S. This comes as the U.S. investigates Iran for the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. David Martin and Behnam Ben Taleblu joined CBSN to discuss the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

13M ago 09:48

North Carolina district holds special primary

Republican voters in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District headed to the polls Tuesday to decide who will represent the party in November's general election. In February, the state's election board overturned Mark Harris' win, after finding he had tampered with the voting process. Nick Ochsner, chief investigative reporter for CBS News' Charlotte affiliate WBTV, joined CBSN with the latest.

updated 20M ago 03:20

Hotels cater to pampered pets

In the dog-loving nation of Britain, some hotels are rolling out the red carpet to welcome four-legged guests. CBS News' Ian Lee reports from the English countryside.

updated 33M ago 01:53

High school track star overcomes homelessness

This high school athlete from Arkansas found herself homeless, taking care of her siblings and paying bills all alone. She overcame the odds to earn a college scholarship for track.

updated 14M ago 03:05

Carnival worker allegedly killed 3 women

Investigators in southern Virginia say 23-year-old James Michael Wright confessed to killing two Tennessee women and a Georgia teen he met through his work for a traveling carnival. CBS affiliate WJHL spoke with the cousin of victim Athina Hopson.

1H ago 01:27