Bill empowering victims of sexual assault now law

Senator Amanda Shelton. (PNC file photo)

Senator Amanda L. Shelton’s Bill No. 111-36 (COR), requiring Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) testing for perpetrators charged with criminal sexual conduct at the request of victims and through court order, was signed as Public Law 36-58 on Friday. The measure provides an additional layer of protection for survivors of criminal sexual abuse and conduct.

“This update to Guam’s law was necessary to give victims of sexual assault access to information they rightfully deserve. Survivors of these heinous crimes cannot be told to wait to begin the healing process,” said Senator Shelton. “Public Law 36-58 is a victim-centric policy that provides timely and necessary health information. I thank Governor Leon Guerrero for her support of this measure as well as our community partners who protect and fight for survivors of sexual abuse every day.”

Balancing the rights of victims and the accused, Public Law 36-58 ensures the confidentiality of the testing and results, prohibits the use of results as evidence against the defendant, and requires the determination of probable cause prior to an order for testing.

Under the law, the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) is tasked to administer and analyze these tests and, for decades, the Department has been providing services for HIV testing and other support services to the community.

“The passage of Bill 111 into law paves the way to support victims of sexual abuse,” said Lori Dueñas, DPHSS Deputy Director, at the bill’s signing ceremony. “HIV and STD testing can be a difficult and extremely sensitive topic for many. It is important that we continue to assure the community that under all circumstances, the rights and privacy of the client and their test results will remain confidential. With the current measure passed, the privacy of those tested is upheld.”

The new law also allows for Guam to train six (6) more nurses in forensic sexual assault exams by ensuring that recipients of an Office on Violence Against Women grant can use all funds available. To date, Guam has only three (3) nurses trained in such exams at the Healthy Hearts Crisis Center.