Nevada Legislature Passes Final Step in Statewide Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2019
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization working to end the backlog of untested rape kits nationwide, today praised the Nevada legislature’s passage of SB 368, which creates a Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights. With Governor Steve Sisolak’s signature, the state will become the latest in the country to enact all six pillars of rape kit reform recommended by Joyful Heart and leaders in this field.

“Behind every kit is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “With the implementation of all six reform pillars, Nevada has made a commitment to its citizens that it will do better. When jurisdictions test every kit, they solve crimes, bring answers and a path to justice and healing for survivors, take criminals off the streets, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.”

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test sexual assault kits. Some officials actively choose not to test all rape kits because they fail to see the value of testing every kit. Joyful Heart and other experts in this work have long disputed that idea and support the testing of all rape kits booked into evidence and connected to a sexual assault reported to law enforcement.

But testing rape kits is just the first step to comprehensive reform. Once the problem is acknowledged and initial kits are sent for testing, jurisdictions must grapple with the enormous task of finding a way to: test all rape kits in their storage facilities, investigate and prosecute these cases, re-engage survivors in the process, and address any systemic failures that led to the backlog in the first place.

Nevada has now passed legislation to: test all new and backlogged sexual assault kits; conduct an audit of kits in law enforcement custody; track all kits; and provide survivors with access to information about the status of their kit. They have also funded these efforts with a state investment, which will be combined with federal grant dollars. 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.

“In 2014, we issued our first public records request to determine the extent of the rape kit backlog in Las Vegas. Today, the state is on the brink of full compliance with best legislative practices. This work takes political will, but it also takes significant resources. We thank the Nevada legislature, local advocates and survivors who have worked tirelessly to bring about reform,” 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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