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New Massachusetts Law Requires Rape Kits to Be Kept Longer

A new Massachusetts law is giving rape survivors more time and options.

Rape kits will now be preserved longer as evidence, thanks to the efforts of 25-year-old Amanda Nguyen's courageous efforts.

"I remember walking out of the hospital ... and feeling so alone," said Nguyen, who was raped several years ago in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signing extending the preservation times of rape kits with Amanda Nguyen to his left. NECN

She underwent a highly invasive and time-consuming exam to gather physical evidence needed for a rape kit. But she wasn't ready to go after her attacker. So twice a year, she went through the traumatic experience of asking for an extension to preserve the kit.

"I remember feeling more despair, after having to fight the Massachusetts criminal justice system to save my kit from destruction," she said.

In Massachusetts, this critical evidence is destroyed after only six months if charges aren't filed, even though the statute of limitations is 15 years.

"I don't have an answer to why six months, and the answer could be it's random," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.

So Nguyen wanted this to change. She started a sexual assault survivors organization called "Rise," and she spent countless hours lobbying lawmakers until she finally watched her bill become state law.

Hospitals will now have to tell sexual assault survivors this evidence will be preserved for 15 years. It immediately applies to kits already in police departments.

Why it took this long is complicated and political.

"I don't have a good answer for that one," Gov. Charlie Baker said.

"You know how many bills there are, and how hard it is, " said State Rep. Cynthia Creem.

Regardless, Nguyen says she's just getting started, and this recent Harvard grad says she's now trying to get the law changed in all 50 states.

"It is good, not only in my own personal development, but for the community around me to keep on pushing the boundaries," Nguyen said.

State officials have yet to lay out how much it will cost to preserve the rape kits for a longer period of time. Earlier in the month, President Obama signed a similar bill at the federal level.

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