Governor Pritzker Signs Bill to Track Rape Kits in Illinois

For Immediate Release: August 16, 2019
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation (Joyful Heart) today applauded Governor J. B. Pritzker’s signing of S.B. 1411, which will create a statewide rape kit tracking system. Illinois was the first state in the country to address their backlog of untested kits in 2010, and today’s action brings the state into compliance with all six pillars of rape kit reform recommended by Joyful Heart and leaders in this field.

“When law enforcement agencies track the untested kits in their custody, communities can begin to take steps to test those kits, hold offenders accountable and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished, often for years—or even decades,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for Joyful Heart. “Ensuring all stakeholders in the criminal justice process can know the location and status of all newly collected sexual assault evidence kits will bring transparency to evidence kit processing and prevent a backlog from happening again.”

S.B. 1411, championed by Representative Margo McDermed and State Senator Dan McConchie, requires the Department of State Police (ISP) to develop rules to implement a rape kit tracking system per the recommendations of the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission. The system, which is to be developed and administered by ISP, must allow survivors secure access and provide a mechanism for a survivor to access their own information. Medical facilities are required to participate, and the system must contain reporting functions including a function allowing law enforcement to produce their annual rape kit inventory.

Joyful Heart’s survivor-focused research shows that giving survivors a choice about how to receive information about their case can help counter the loss of self-determination and control at the core of the sexual assault experience. Building a rape kit tracking system with a portal for survivors to check the status of their kit at their convenience can give survivors the control they need to heal on their own terms.

Illinois has now passed legislation to: test all new and backlogged sexual assault kits; conduct recurring audits of kits in law enforcement custody; track all kits; and provide survivors with access to information about the status of their kit. They have funded these efforts with a state investment. Together, these laws will eliminate the backlog of untested kits, prevent future backlogs, support survivors, and help transform law enforcement’s response to sexual assault.

“We thank members of the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking Commission and local advocates who have dedicated themselves to this work. We stand with every survivor who has taken the step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker. Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community,” added Knecht.

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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