Important Step Toward Rape Kit Reform Heads to Gov. Rauner’s Desk

For Immediate Release: June 6, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the Illinois state legislature’s passage of House Bill 528, which creates a Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission to develop a plan for a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system. The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in the coming days.

“Joyful Heart stands with the tireless advocates who have fought for justice in Illinois. We applaud champion State Representative Margo McDermed and the legislature for taking this important step toward giving survivors an opportunity at long awaited justice,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “Only after law enforcement agencies track and account for the untested kits in their custody can communities begin to take steps to test those kits, hold offenders accountable, and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished, often for years—or even decades.”

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test these kits. There are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country. We cannot know the true extent of the backlog because few state governments and no federal agencies require that police departments count or track the kits in their possession.

In 2010, Illinois became the first state in the country to enact a rape kit reform law, which required all newly collected kits to be swiftly submitted for testing. Since then, Illinois has remained a leader, enacting laws mandating annual audits of rape kits, trauma-informed training for law enforcement, and survivor-centered policies governing sexual assault responses. State law also grants victims the right to know the testing status of their rape kits.

“We stand with every survivor who has taken the step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker,” added Knecht. “Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community.”

This work takes political will, but it also takes significant resources. Joyful Heart is committed to advocating for funding to help implement comprehensive reform.

Joyful Heart has created the premier national resource about the rape kit backlog, which includes an interactive map and resources for survivors, legislators, and the media. Learn more at: 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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