Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Passage of Arizona Bill to Reform Rape Kit Policies

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org 

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the Arizona state legislature’s passage of H.B. 2268, which sets uniform standards for the processing of sexual assault kits across the state.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Testing rape kits is also the pathway to a more effective criminal justice system. By testing 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. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country.

In 2016, Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring a one-time statewide audit, and establishing the Arizona Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force. That same year, the task force reported a total of 6,424 untested rape kits in storage at law enforcement agencies across the state.

H.B. 2268 takes meaningful steps toward comprehensive rape kit reform. It requires hospitals to notify police when new rape kits are collected and a survivor wants to report the crime; police to collect these kits within 5 days of receiving notice; police to submit these kits to the lab within 15 business days in all reported cases in which law enforcement determines that a crime occurred; and the lab to test these kits as soon as practicable. H.B. 2268 also requires law enforcement agencies and labs to report annually regarding the number of rape kits received, number of kits tested, number of kits not tested, and the reasons for which these kits were not tested. This data will be annually compiled and reported publicly and to state officials by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

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 Representative Maria Syms and our advocacy partners who fought for the passage of H.B. 2268, which is a major step forward for the standardization of how rape kits are handled across the state. This bill will bring justice to survivors, hold violent perpetrators accountable for their crimes, and promote public safety for all residents.

“With this passage, Arizona has joined the growing number of states that have enacted rape kit reform laws.

“But our work in Arizona is not complete. The language of this bill allows for varied interpretation by law enforcement agencies statewide, particularly regarding the determination of ‘whether a crime occurred.’ This discretion currently exists and has been a key factor, supported by research, in the massive number of untested rape kits sitting on shelves across the country. National best practices require the submission of all kits except in cases in which law enforcement has expressly, through a rigorous investigation that resulted in clear and convincing evidence, determined that a crime did not occur. We look forward to reviewing the findings from the initial annual report and continuing to work with the state's elected leadership to improve the process and ensure that the full intent of the legislation is realized.

“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 funds – like those received from several cities in Arizona – 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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