Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Passage of Hawai'i Bill to Implement Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: May 3, 2016
Contact: media@endthebacklog.org

HONOLULU – 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 the passage of Hawai'i HB 1907, which takes meaningful steps to address the backlog of untested rape kits in the state. Founded in Kailua-Kona in 2004, Joyful Heart has made the elimination of the rape kit backlog a top priority.

Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. In Hawai‘i, one in seven — 67,000 — women have been raped.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, rape kit evidence can identify an unknown assailant, affirm the survivor's account of the attack, 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. Earlier this year, the Honolulu Police Department announced that they had 1,500 rape kits that had never been sent for testing.

“On behalf of survivors across Hawai‘i —many of whom have been re-traumatized by the experience of waiting for the investigation and prosecution of their case — we thank the members of the Hawai‘i state legislature and particularly the Women’s Caucus, for the attention they have paid to this issue,” said Kata Issari, Executive Director for Joyful Heart’s Hawai‘i Region. “Allowing rape kits to sit untested on a shelf means cases go unsolved, serial rapists remain undetected, innocent people are incarcerated and survivors continue to wait for justice. Passing this bill is the first step toward meaningful change.”

House Bill 1907 requires a statewide audit of untested rape kits and a report with procedural recommendations by the Attorney General that includes input from community stakeholders. It ensures the testing of all previously backlogged and untested rape kits by 2018, and mandates the swift testing of all new kits starting in 2017.

Hawai‘i has now joined the growing number of states that have passed laws requiring sexual assault kit audits or some type of mandatory submission guidelines. These laws will expand what we know about the true extent of the number of untested rape kits and will result in thousands of cases for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute.

Testing rape kits is just the first step to comprehensive reform. Once the problem is acknowledged and the first kits are sent out for testing, cities are left to grapple with the enormous task of finding a way to test all of the rape kits in their storage facilities, and figuring out how to investigate and prosecute these cases, re-engage survivors in the process and address any systemic failures that led to the creation of the problem in the first place.

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

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.

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