Bill Approved by Hawaii Legislature Could Make State National Leader in Rape Kit Reform

Proposal championed by Women’s Legislative Caucus Awaits Decision by Governor

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

Joyful Heart, which was founded in Kailua-Kona, is implementing an ambitious national campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states framed around six pillars of reform. When Governor David Ige signs the bill into law, Hawaii will have committed to all of Joyful Heart’s pillars.

“With this passage of comprehensive reform, Hawaii is poised to become a national leader in the movement to end the backlog of untested rape kits,” said Sarah Haacke Byrd, Joyful Heart’s Managing Director. “This sweeping achievement demonstrates Hawaii’s commitment to offering a path to healing and justice for sexual assault survivors and strengthening public safety for its citizens.”

The stakes could not be higher: in Hawaii, one in seven women has been raped. Any sexual assault survivor who consents to an invasive rape kit examination does so with hope that it will lead to justice. Passage of House Bill 2131 will ensure that every single rape kit connected to a reported crime is submitted to the laboratory and tested in a timely manner.

House Bill 2131 grants critical rights to sexual assault survivors, directs counties to track rape kits, mandates rape kit submission and testing within specific deadlines, and establishes annual reporting mechanisms to increase accountability and transparency in rape kit handling across Hawaii.

“Joyful Heart is grateful to the Women’s Legislative Caucus led by Senator Laura Thielen and Representative Linda Ichiyama, the Attorney General’s Working Group, the Hawaii Sexual Assault Kit Initiative team, and local advocates who have kept a focus on passing these critical reforms,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for Joyful Heart. “This commitment sends a message to survivors that they—and their cases—matter. It demonstrates to survivors that everything possible will be done to bring healing and justice. It also sends a clear message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable for their crimes.”

DNA evidence – found in sexual assault kits – is an invaluable investigative tool. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test these kits. 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 more than 25 states remaining that have yet to count the untested rape kits in their possession, we believe there are several hundred thousand more yet to be discovered.

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’s ENDTHEBACKLOG.org website, which includes an interactive map and resources for media, survivors, legislators, and law enforcement, is the premier national source for information about the rape kit backlog.

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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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