Successes in 2018: 18 Laws, 16 States

In 2018, rape kit reform took a tremendous step forward. Survivors, advocates, legislators, and countless others around the country rallied around ending the backlog, investigating cases, and supporting survivors. In 2018, 18 rape kit reform laws were enacted in 16 states. Hawai‘i, our birthplace, and New York, our current home state, both joined Texas in enacting full rape kit reform.

These bills are part of Joyful Heart’s six pillars of legislative reform to count, test, and track kits and to prioritize the rights of survivors. In 2018, every state below made a commitment to improve its rape kit handling processes and, in doing so, made strides in transforming the response to sexual assault. As our fearless founder, Mariska Hargitay, mentioned in her response to CNN about the widespread practice of destroying kits: “Just as the backlog is a reflection of how we regard sexual assault and its victims in this country, the individual actions and decisions by law enforcement are the outcome of deeply entrenched societal attitudes that make those actions and decisions possible. Those attitudes must be dismantled. And what must change are the laws governing the handling of rape kits.”

This work could not have been done without the countless emails and phone calls Joyful Heart supporters made across the country. Lawmakers heard loud and clear that reform is overdue. We’re grateful for our community’s relentless advocacy and look forward to what we can accomplish together this year.

18 rape kit reform laws were enacted in 16 states:

  1. Alaska S.B. 142. The Alaska capital budget bill allocated $2.75 million to test every rape kit in Alaska. This is the state’s most significant investment in eliminating the backlog to date.
  2. Alaska H.B. 31. Under this law, Alaska is required to conduct annual inventories, helping the state monitor progress on testing 3,484 untested kits identified through a one-time inventory in 2017.
  3. California A.B. 3118. This law requires all law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and crime labs to count their kits and submit a report to the California Department of Justice by 2019.
  4. Connecticut Public Act No. 18-83. This law establishes a statewide rape kit tracking system and ensures sexual assault survivors can access information about the testing status of their rape kit.
  5. Hawai‘i H.B. 2131. This law grants essential rights to sexual assault survivors; directs all counties to track rape kits; requires kits to be submitted to the lab and tested; and establishes annual reporting mechanisms to increase accountability and transparency in rape kit handling processes.
  6. Indiana Act No. 264. Indiana will study the feasibility of a statewide rape kit tracking system under this new law.
  7. Louisiana Act No. 354. The state created the Louisiana Sexual Assault Oversight Commission to recommend a standardized rape kit as well as statewide protocols for forensic medical examinations. The attorney general must make sure the recommendations are implemented.
  8. Maryland Chapter 429. This law requires the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) Policy and Funding Committee to make recommendations on a statewide rape kit tracking system accessible to victims of sexual assault. The law also requires the committee to apply for federal funds to advance rape kit legislation.
  9. Massachusetts Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2018. This is a comprehensive law mandating an annual inventory of rape kits, the timely testing of newly collected rape kits, and the testing of backlogged kits. The new law also establishes a statewide tracking system and grants victims the right to know the testing status of their rape kit.
  10. Minnesota S.F. No. 2863. This law grants victims the right to notification about their rape kit testing status, increases evidence retention protections, and strengthens requirements for submitting rape kits.
  11. Missouri H.B. No. 1355. Law enforcement must retrieve rape kits from hospitals within 14 days and submit it to a lab for testing within 14 days of taking possession of the kit under this law. Additionally, a rape kit tracking system will be created to follow kits from collection to disposition and allow survivors to monitor the status of their kit.
  12. New Hampshire S.B. 391. This new law grants survivors the right to be informed of policies for kit collection and preservation upon written request; receive notice within 60 days of the kit’s planned disposal; and be able to expand the kit preservation period.
  13. New York S7507C. The state health and mental hygiene budget expanded the retention period for an unreported kit from three years to 20 years and calls for victims to be notified in advance of planned kit destruction. The budget also requires the creation of a rape kit tracking system.
  14. New York S.8977. This new law establishes a sexual assault victim’s bill of rights which would include the right, upon request, to be informed of the date and location the kit was analyzed; be informed whether there was a DNA match in the national database; and be notified at least 90 days before the end of the 20-year storage period and destruction of the kit.
  15. North Carolina H.B. 945. This law requires the creation of a rape kit tracking system to track the 15,160 untested rape kits identified in a statewide inventory earlier this year. All newly collected kits will also be tracked and survivors will be able to monitor the location and testing status of their kit via the tracking system.
  16. Ohio S.B. 201. Under this new law, the attorney general will create and operate a rape kit tracking system. Survivors will have the ability to access the system anonymously to track the status and location of their kit.
  17. Oregon Chapter 55, (2018 Laws). This law requires the creation and implementation of a statewide tracking system. The system must track kits through the criminal justice process and provide sexual assault survivors anonymous access to track the status of their kit.
  18. West Virginia Chapter 207, Acts, Regular Session, 2018. Under this law, the Sexual Assault Forensic Commission will establish best practice protocols for handling rape kits, including time frames for submission and storage.

keep up with backlog news

END THE BACKLOG is a JOYFUL HEART FOUNDATION initiative and a proud supporter of