New Hampshire Takes First Step Toward Rape Kit Reform

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the New Hampshire legislature’s important first step toward rape kit reform. Governor Chris Sununu has signed Senate Bill 391, which grants sexual assault survivors the right to know about the status of their rape kit and results of testing, into law.

Since 2010, Joyful Heart has made the elimination of the rape kit backlog a top priority through its End the Backlog initiative. The nonprofit is implementing an ambitious campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states framed around six pillars of reform. With the Governor’s signature, New Hampshire has taken an important step forward to implement the first of Joyful Heart’s pillars. Learn more about the state’s progress at: http://www.endthebacklog.org/new-hampshire.

“Behind every rape kit is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for Joyful Heart. “Our victim notification research found that access to information about their case is central to survivors’ healing. Giving survivors access to information about their kits can help counter the loss of self-determination and control at the core of a sexual assault experience.”

Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in America. In the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, a victim may choose to undergo a 4-6 hour invasive medical forensic examination to collect evidence left behind during the assault. Survivors who take this step expect that their rape kits will be tested. The public expects the same. Yet too often, rape kits are left untested on evidence room shelves.

Joyful Heart has identified more than 225,000 untested rape kits sitting in police, crime lab or other storage facilities across the United States. And, with nearly 20 states–including New Hampshire–that have yet to count the untested rape kits in their possession, there are likely several hundred thousand more to be discovered.

“We look forward to working with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, local advocates, survivors, law enforcement and legislators to pursue additional legislative reforms in the state,” added Knecht. “Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring a path to 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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