Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Passage of New York State Bills to Implement Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2016
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, a leader in the effort to eliminate the national rape kit backlog, applauds the passage of New York Senate Bill 8117 and Assembly Bill 10067-A, which take meaningful steps to address the backlog of untested rape kits in the state.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, rape kit evidence can identify an unknown assailant, confirm the presence of a known suspect, 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.

The bills – approved by the New York State legislature late yesterday – set standards for the processing of sexual assault evidence kits in the state by requiring labs and all New York law enforcement agencies to report quarterly on the sexual assault evidence kits in their possession. It will mandate testing of all kits in current custody, and set a timeline of testing for future kits within 10 days of receipt.

Below is a statement from Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has offices in New York City:

"The Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to stand with our advocacy partners who fought for the passage of S8117/A10067-A, to provide survivors of sexual assault with the justice they deserve.

“There is no excuse for complacency on the processing of rape kit evidence. We believe strongly in the value of 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.

“We stand with every survivor who has taken the courageous step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker.

“New York 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.

“Joyful Heart will continue to advocate for state and federal funds to help jurisdictions implement comprehensive reform, and stands ready to provide assistance to any community 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.

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