Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Washington Bill to Implement Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

Washington now becomes the first state in the country to mandate the tracking of every rape kit

For Immediate Release: March 29, 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 untested rape kits, today applauded the passage of HB 2530, which takes meaningful steps to bring accountability to the process of rape kit testing in Washington State. After weeks of delay, the state legislature has now provided the needed funding to implement the bill.

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.

HB 2530 builds on previous efforts by Washington State to reform rape kit policies. The bill requires the Washington State Police to establish a statewide tracking system – the first in the country – that follows rape kits from a hospital to law enforcement to the crime lab for testing. The system must allow survivors to anonymously check the status of their kit. HB2530 also requires annual reporting by the State Patrol about the tracking system and the number of rape kits entered and tested, among other data.

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 Representative Tina Orwall and our advocacy partners who fought for the passage of legislation to provide accountability and transparency to the rape kit testing process in Washington State.

“There is no excuse for complacency on the processing of rape kit evidence – and we join experts in calling for the tracking, mandatory submission and testing of every rape kit booked into evidence and connected to a reported sexual assault.

“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.

“Washington has now joined the growing number of states that are addressing the need to have clear policies about the testing of rape kits. These laws will ensure every rape kit connected to a reported crime is accounted for and tested, bringing justice to survivors.

“Joyful Heart will continue to advocate for federal funds to help states 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 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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