Since 2010, eliminating the backlog of untested rape kits has been our top advocacy priority. And now, we are leading a nationwide campaign with an ambitious goal: to enact comprehensive rape kit reform laws in all 50 states.
While the type and degree of our efforts vary in each state, our core focus is on supporting the development, advocacy, promotion, and passage of key reform policies in law. This has included collaborating with state coalitions and local stakeholders to coordinate and unify our activities, working with legislators to provide guidance and help draft and amend legislation, and partnering with survivors who provide input and testimony to ensure that reform legislation is informed by their voices and others from across the country. We employ strategic communications and public relations alongside these advocacy efforts to promote and make our case for reform in target states.
Six Pillars of Legislative Rape Kit Reform
Our campaign aims to enact the following six key pillars of legislative rape kit reform in every state:
- Annual statewide inventory of untested kits: A recurring count of all untested rape kits enables stakeholders to understand the scope of the problem and monitor progress.
- Mandatory testing of backlogged kits: Eliminate the existing backlog by requiring law enforcement agencies to submit all previously untested kits to the lab and requiring the kits to be tested.
- Mandatory testing of new kits: Prevent future backlogs by requiring law enforcement agencies to promptly submit all newly collected kits to the lab, and requiring the lab to test these kits within a specific timeframe.
- Statewide tracking system: Ensure that hospitals, law enforcement, and labs are using the same system to track rape kits. Build in a mechanism for survivors to check the status of their kits throughout the process, from collection to analysis.
- Victims’ rights to notice: Grant victims the right to receive information about the status and location of their rape kit, and require that victims be informed if their kit will not be tested.
- Funding for reform: Appropriate state funding to address these issues.
Making these pillars the law in every state ensures that backlogged rape kits are identified, tracked, and tested; all newly collected kits are tracked and tested going forward; and all victims can access information about the testing status of their rape kit. These pillars, once implemented successfully, eliminate existing backlogs, prevent the problem from occurring again, and grant rights to sexual assault survivors.
Why Legislative Reform Matters
Systemic and lasting change takes effect through state-level legislation. While agency-, local-, and county-level reform efforts are incredibly important, we know that perpetrators do not stop at the county limits, and survivors’ access to justice should not be limited by zip code. Over time, as leadership changes, media attention wanes, and priorities shift, we want to ensure that survivors of rape are not left behind.
How We Can Help
Joyful Heart works with state legislators to enact comprehensive rape kit reform legislation. We have created model legislation, offering a survivor-centered approach to rape kit reform at the state level. Our recommendations align with federal best practices as outlined in the National Institute of Justice’s July 2017 report, “National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: a Multidisciplinary Approach,” and has been reviewed by survivors, crime lab personnel, victim advocates, medical professionals, DNA experts, law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims’ rights experts. While every state should customize the model to ensure it addresses their unique challenges and existing statutes, our model legislation offers guidance to state lawmakers drafting rape kit reform legislation and covers all provisions that should be included in a comprehensive rape kit reform law.
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.