New York Legislature Passes Survivor-Centered Reforms for Rape Kits Processing

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the New York legislature’s passage of Senate Bill S8977 and Assembly Bill A8401C, which grant sexual assault survivors the right to know about the status of their rape kit and results of testing. This legislation, led by long-time champions Senator Kemp Hannon and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, now awaits the governor’s signature.

Since 2010, New York-headquartered 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 York will have passed legislation to implement five of Joyful Heart’s pillars. Learn more about the state’s progress at: http://www.endthebacklog.org/new-york.

“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 a choice about how to receive information about their case can help counter the loss of self-determination and control at the core of the sexual assault experience.”

When tested, DNA evidence from rape kits can be a powerful tool to solve and prevent crimes. It can identify unknown assailants, confirm known suspects, identify serial offenders by linking crimes together, and exonerate the innocent. And yet, often times the decision is made not to test these kits. 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 that have yet to count the untested rape kits in their possession, there are likely several hundred thousand more to be discovered.

“Survivors who undergo a rape kit exam expect that their rape kit will be tested. The public expects the same. Yet too often, rape kits are left untested on evidence room shelves,” added Knecht. “We will continue to work with advocates, survivors, law enforcement and elected officials across the state to build on the reforms that have been undertaken to date. 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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