Joyful Heart Foundation: Utah is a Model of Bipartisan Cooperation on Rape Kit Reform

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

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, a leader in the effort to eliminate the national rape kit backlog, today applauded the Utah state legislature’s passage of H.B. 200, which takes significant and lasting steps to reform rape kit policies across the state.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Testing rape kits is also the pathway to a more effective criminal justice system. By testing kits, communities can identify serial perpetrators, take dangerous offenders off the streets, exonerate the innocent, and prevent future crimes. 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.

In 2014, Utah's statewide working group for sexual assault kits found an estimated 2,750 untested rape kits statewide.

H.B. 200, which has now passed both houses of the Utah state legislature, mandates the testing of all rape kits, requires annual reporting on the processing of rape kits, and authorizes the development of a statewide kit tracking system with a victim portal.

Below is a statement from Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation: 

“Utah has proven that rape kit reform – and justice for survivors of sexual assault – is a bipartisan fight we can all win. The Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to stand with Representative Angela Romero and Senator Todd Weiler who fought for the passage of H.B. 200, which will bring justice to survivors, hold violent perpetrators accountable for their crimes, and promote public safety for all residents.

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

“Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community.

“Utah has now joined the growing number of states that have passed laws requiring sexual assault kit audits or some type of mandatory submission guidelines. These laws will expand what we know about the true extent of the number of untested rape kits and will result in thousands of cases for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute.

“They will result in long overdue justice.

“Joyful Heart will continue to advocate for federal funds – like those already secured by Utah state agencies – 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 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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