Joyful Heart Welcomes First-Ever National Standards for Handling Sexual Assault Kits

For Immediate Release: August 8, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, which has made eliminating the rape kit backlog its top advocacy priority since 2010, welcomed today’s release by the federal government of national standards for the handling and processing of sexual assault kits. The National Institute of Justice – the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice – has released “National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach,” which includes 35 recommendations that provide a guide to victim-centered approaches for responding to sexual assault cases and better supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process.

“For the first time, the federal government has issued best practices that reflect what we have long believed – when you test all sexual assault kits, when you follow up on investigations, and when you engage with survivors using a trauma-informed approach – you improve the criminal justice system and make communities safer,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Policy & Advocacy Director. “We are so grateful to the experts who contributed their time and knowledge as part of the workgroup that developed these recommendations. Today’s report provides key tools to help law enforcement and state legislatures make important policy changes to implement comprehensive rape kit reform.”

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test sexual assault 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 federal agencies and most state governments do not require police departments to count or track the kits in their possession.

Today’s report provides recommendations not just on the mandatory testing of all kits, but on developing critical tracking systems to monitor testing progress, retention and investigation protocols, and survivor-centered policies to allow victims greater access to information.

Joyful Heart has developed a national campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states by 2020. 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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