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D.C. Council Bill Would Offer More Support To Rape Victims

Rape victims would receive more help and the Metropolitan Police Department would be subject to more oversight under legislation being considered by the D.C. Council.

Victims would have access to an advocate during interviews with detective and lawyers if the "Sexual Assault and Victim's Rights Act" becomes law. Bridgette Harwood, co-executive director of the group Network for Victim Recovery, says being able to have an advocate present will help more victims come forward with their allegations.

"Additionally what is really missing from this bill is an explicit right for a survivor, to have the right to information when the offender is notified that they've made a report, so they can safety plan and have peace of mind," she says.

Defense attorneys say the proposed legislation is troublesome. Patrice Sulton with the D.C. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says there are times when an attorney may have to interview an accuser without an advocate present.

"So in the domestic violence context where we have advocates, we've seen that become a problem. I've seen it in my own cases become a problem. And so we need an opportunity to independently interview these witnesses and to speak to them without that interference in some cases," she says.

The proposed legislation comes nearly a year after Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing the Metropolitan Police Department of mishandling rape investigations.

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