Oklahoma Takes Important First Step Toward Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: April 24, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s new Executive Order, which creates a task force to conduct a one-time audit of untested sexual assault kits across the state. This is an important first step toward comprehensive rape kit reform, which would include mandatory testing procedures for backlogged and newly submitted rape kits, a tracking system for all kits, and a process for survivor engagement and notification.

“Joyful Heart stands with the tireless advocates who have fought for justice in Oklahoma. We applaud Governor Fallin 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. “When the extent of a state’s backlog of untested rape kits is revealed, real reform can begin. Only after law enforcement agencies account for the untested kits in their custody, communities can 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.

Ending the rape kit backlog will take a coordinated effort and deep commitment at all levels of our government and in communities across the United States. Joyful Heart has developed a national campaign that combines direct legislative efforts, press and media outreach, strategic partnerships, and survivor advocacy. The goal: to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states by 2020.

“We are committed to working with Governor Fallin, the new task force, the Oklahoma state legislature, champion State Senator Kay Floyd, and advocate Danielle Tudor to pursue important legislative reforms, and hope the Governor’s action today helps inspire action,” added Knecht. “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. 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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