Alaska Legislature Invests in Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2018
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today praised the passage of rape kit reforms in Alaska, as Governor Bill Walker signed HB 31 into law, which will require an annual inventory of untested rape kits in the state. The state’s capital budget, signed into law late last month, also included $2.75 million to test every rape kit in the state.

“Alaska’s significant and necessary investment to test every rape kit will provide a path to justice and healing for survivors throughout the state,” said Lily Rocha, Joyful Heart’s Policy and Advocacy Manager. “We are grateful to the legislature for prioritizing justice for sexual assault survivors by financing rape kit testing and requiring an annual inventory of untested kits. We thank champions Senator Anna MacKinnon and Representative Geran Tarr, who led these efforts.”

DNA is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, evidence obtained from a rape kit can identify an unknown assailant, reveal serial offenders, and exonerate the wrongly convicted. Joyful Heart has identified more than 225,000 untested rape kits sitting in police, crime lab or other storage facilities across the United States. And, with nearly 20 states remaining that have yet to count the untested rape kits in their possession, there are likely several hundred thousand more to be discovered. The new Alaska law requiring annual inventories is an effective way to hold law enforcement accountable for rape kit handling practices. This transparency also enables stakeholders to understand the scope of the problem and monitor progress.

Joyful Heart has developed a campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states framed around six pillars for reform. With the Governor’s signature, Alaska will have committed to three of Joyful Heart’s six pillars. Learn more about Alaska’s progress at: www.endthebacklog.org/alaska.

“Behind every kit is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice. We are committed to working with advocates, legislators, and agency leaders in Alaska to advance rape kit reform. We hope this effort helps inspire further action in the state,” added Rocha.

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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