Joyful Heart Applauds Louisiana’s Creation of Sexual Assault Oversight Commission

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the signing of Louisiana Senate Bill 101, which creates a Sexual Assault Oversight Commission, into law. Under the guidance of the Office of the Attorney General, the Commission will develop recommendations for the statewide standardization of sexual assault kit handling and examination protocols.

“The rape kit backlog represents a failure of the criminal justice system to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. We can and must do better,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “This law is a step forward and we stand ready to work with the Commission to create best practices for handling sexual assault kits in Louisiana.”

Since 2010, Joyful Heart has made the elimination of the rape kit backlog a top priority through its End the Backlog initiative. Through partnerships with federal, state and local government, non-profit organizations, law enforcement, advocates and survivors, the organization is working to bring attention, critical funding, and reforms to improve the criminal justice response to sexual violence.

DNA is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, evidence obtained from a rape kit can identify an unknown assailant, reveal serial offenders, and exonerate the wrongly convicted. In 2014, Louisiana enacted a law requiring the state crime lab to conduct an annual audit of rape kits. In 2015, the lab reported 1,333 untested rape kits.

Joyful Heart is implementing an ambitious campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states framed around six pillars of reform.

“We are committed to working with the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA), the Attorney General’s Office, survivors, advocates, law enforcement and legislators in Louisiana to pursue further important legislative reforms,” added Knecht. “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.”

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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