Joyful Heart Applauds Nevada Passage of Rape Kit Reform Measure Into Law

For Immediate Release: June 12, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval's signing of AB 97, which takes important steps to reform the way the state addresses untested rape kits in law enforcement custody and strengthens victim access to information regarding the status of their kit.

DNA evidence – embodied in a rape kit – is an invaluable investigative tool. By testing rape 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. In fact, there are currently hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country.

The extent of the untested rape kit backlog in Nevada is unknown. However, in 2015, authorities identified nearly 8,000 untested rape kits statewide. As of March 2017, the effort to test these backlogged kits has resulted in 58 DNA matches, 11 arrest warrants, and 8 arrests.

With the passage of AB 97, law enforcement agencies must now submit all newly collected kits to the lab within 30 days and labs to test kits within 120 days of receipt. Each lab must also report annually regarding the number of kits received and the number of kits tested. A statewide tracking system for rape kits, which must allow survivors to anonymously track or receive updates about the status of the rape kits, will also be created.

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

“The Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to stand with the many Nevada leaders who worked to bring AB 97 to passage, led by Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Assms. Teresa Benitez-Thompson and Steve Yeager, and Sens. Aaron Ford and Becky Harris. We will continue to stand with the dedicated advocates who fought for the passage of AB 97, including the Rape Crisis Center of Las Vegas and the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“This is an important step forward for the standardization of how rape kits are handled across the state, and the start of true reform in the state. With this passage, Nevada has joined the growing number of states – including Utah, Arizona and New Mexico – that have enacted rape kit reform laws.

“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 will continue to advocate for federal funds – like those received from the Nevada Office of the Attorney General – to help implement comprehensive reform, and stands ready to provide assistance to any community working to address its untested rape kit backlog.”

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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