CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced two executive orders that build on recent successes in improving the Commonwealth's response to sexual assault and domestic violence.
Kaine announced these actions at a domestic violence conference in Chesterfield sponsored by the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protective Orders (GEAP) partnership.
"Every year, far too many Virginians suffer from sexual assault and domestic violence," Kaine said. "The actions I've announced today recognize the need for further improvements in the Commonwealth's response to victims of these crimes and for collaboration among all community partners in the years to come."
Executive Order 92 directs the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services to accept and store Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERK) received from health care providers. This provides an additional resource to emergency room physicians and forensic nurses who serve as first responders to victims of sexual assault by providing the forensic medical exam.
Currently, there is a lack of clarity regarding the steps to be taken following the examination in an instance where evidence is collected from an alleged victim of sexual assault but that victim is not yet prepared to release personal identifying information to law enforcement. Health care providers are not equipped to accept the responsibility to store the evidence in a manner that preserves chain of custody and assures that it can be used in any future prosecution. Executive Order 92 resolves that situation by directing the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services to accept and store PERKs received from health care providers.
Executive Order 93 establishes a sexual and domestic violence work group to continue to implement the recommendations of the Governor's Commission on Sexual Violence and to further build on the work of the GEAP partnership. The work group will be composed of several state agencies, including the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Social Services and the Department of State Police. The Executive Order also extends an invitation to victim advocacy groups, forensic nurses, local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and the judiciary.
These Executive Orders build on the work of the Governor's Commission on Sexual Violence and several pieces of legislation passed by the 2008 General Assembly, including:
- a prohibition on polygraph testing for victims complaining of sexual assault;
- a requirement that the Commonwealth pay for all Physical Evidence Recovery Kits;
- a mandate that protective orders be immediately entered into the Virginia Crime Information Network;
- a repeal of an antiquated Virginia statute that allowed for subsequent marriage as an exemption to statutory rape.
Governor Kaine yesterday also signed a proclamation recognizing October as "Domestic Violence Awareness Month" in the Commonwealth.