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6/10/2024 Assembly OKs bill to help sexual assault victims access fund
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Pamela J. Lauria and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee to help sexual assault victims access the state fund that assists victims of violent crime with the costs they’ve faced as a result.

The legislation (2024-S 2767A, 2024-H 7449A), which now goes to the governor, would enable victims of sexual assault to submit a medical forensic exam performed within 15 days of the assault by a licensed health care provider in lieu of a police report in order to establish eligibility for funds from the Crime Victim Compensation Program. The program reimburses victims for expenses resulting from crimes, such as medical and counseling costs, cleaning, relocation, loss of earnings, funeral expenses and more.

Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Senator Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) submitted the legislation on behalf of General Treasurer James A. Diossa, whose office administers the Crime Victim Compensation Program.

Under current law, crime victims must file a police report in order to qualify for funds through the program. But according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network,  70% of sexual assaults go unreported, meaning the vast majority of sexual assault victims are unable to receive assistance through the fund.

“I have taken care of many victims of sexual assault,” said Senator Lauria, who works as a nurse practitioner. “There are many reasons that victims choose not to press charges. That does not make them any less a victim. They endure so much, including expenses that the Crime Victim Compensation Fund is meant to cover. This bill gives them another avenue to qualify for help through the fund.”

Said Representative McEntee, “Often when a victim of sexual assault chooses not to report the assault to the police, it is because doing so is more than they can bear. That’s a victim who very much needs help. The victim’s compensation fund should absolutely be able to provide the same assistance to them as it would to any other victim of sexual assault.”

The sponsors noted that a medial forensic exam conducted following sexual assault is one of the most invasive medical exams that exist, and that no one would undergo one without need. The expense of that exam would be something the Crime Victim Compensation Program would cover.

“This law makes the Treasury’s Crime Victim Compensation Program more accessible for Rhode Islanders going through a very difficult moment. I thank Senator Lauria, Representative McEntee, and the General Assembly for its leadership in getting this bill across the finish line," said General Treasurer Diossa.

Under another law enacted by the General Assembly this year, the fund can now provide up to $1,000 in financial assistance to help victims improve security in their homes. That bill  (2024-H 7747B2024-S 2777A) sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Sen. Matthew L. LaMountain (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) on Treasurer Diossa’s behalf, could be of particular help to the same victims who would be helped by this bill, since fear of retaliation by the perpetrator is a common reason that victims decline to pursue criminal charges.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of violent crime in Rhode Island and you need assistance, the Crime Victim Compensation Program may be able to help. More information about the program can be found at or by calling (401) 462-7655.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923