Joyful Heart Foundation Commends Passage of Massachusetts Bill to Increase Transparency for Sexual Assault Survivors

Encourages State to Continue Work on Comprehensive Reform

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2016
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, a leader in the effort to provide cities and states with the resources they need to address their backlog of rape kits, today applauded Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s signing of H.4364, which increases transparency for survivors of sexual assault and commits to retaining DNA evidence obtained through sexual assault exams for 15 years.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, rape kit evidence can identify an unknown assailant, connect the suspect to other crime scenes, and exonerate the wrongly convicted. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test these kits. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country. And worst yet, some of these kits are destroyed by law enforcement before a statute of limitations is reached, shutting off a pathway to justice for survivors and leaving dangerous offenders on the streets.

Championed by survivor and activist Amanda Nguyen, the Massachusetts law requires law enforcement or any governmental entity that is responsible for sexual assault forensic evidence to preserve that evidence, including rape kits, for at least 15 years or for the statute of limitations whether or not a victim chooses to report to law enforcement. The new law requires hospitals to notify a victim of rape or sexual assault in writing about how long the rape kit will be held in storage.

Below is a statement from Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation:

“The Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to stand with our advocacy partners who fought for the passage of H.4364, to provide greater transparency to survivors of sexual assault.

“There is no excuse for complacency on the processing of rape kit evidence – and we join experts in calling for the mandatory submission and testing of every rape kit booked into evidence and connected to a reported sexual assault. Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community.

“Massachusetts has now joined the growing number of states that have enacted rape kit reform laws. But there is more to. We encourage the state to continue their work on behalf of the sexual assault survivors who have been denied justice for too long and pass mandatory rape kit testing laws and notification rights for survivors.

“Joyful Heart stands ready to help state legislators implement comprehensive reform, and to provide assistance to any community members working to address its untested kit backlog.”

For background and further information on the rape kit backlog, go to: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.

 

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever. www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

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