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Lawmakers vote to eliminate requirement for sexual assault examinations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVVA) Rape, it's one of the most under-reported crimes in the world. By estimates from United Nations Database on Violence Against Women, nearly 92 percent of cases go unreported.

To make it a little bit easier for those victims to come forward -- West Virginia senators passed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate the requirement for victims to undergo an invasive exam.

It also allows evidence to be used from part of the exam without making victims submit to the entire test.

"It serves as a deterrent for our victims of sexual assault," explained the bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Woelfel, 5th Dist., Cabell County.

While evidence collected during the exams can help make or break a case, supporters of the bill argue the invasive nature of it can also make sure the case never sees a courtroom.

"We have too many sexual assaults in West Virginia," said Sen. Stephen Balwin, (D) Greenbrier County. "This makes sure these victims don't have to undergo a second trauma in a court-related process."

Supporters of the legislation say the bill can also eliminate the extensive wait times for victims. In 2015, State Police estimated there were 2,400 shelved kids on backlog ---- making victims wait sometimes years for their day in court.

"These poor girls have already gone through something bad. We want to make it as least invasive as possible," said Sen. Ron Stollings, (D) Boone County.

The bill passed 33-0 in the Senate. The legislation heads next to the House of Delegates for consideration.

Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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