A significant yet basic way to support sexual assault survivors is to ensure that evidence from the crime is collected and tested in a timely manner. But far too often, rape kits are never examined, and agencies lose track of them, adding another barrier to achieving justice for sexual assault survivors.
That’s why we are thrilled to have helped pass House Bill 2530, making Washington the first state in the country to create a tracking system for rape kits. This system will serve as a resource for law enforcement and survivors alike; the ability to track specific kits holds law enforcement accountable in their efforts to test old and new kits, and empowers survivors with greater access to information.
We are pleased that the Legislature also included $3.8 million in the budget to help improve the collection, tracking, and testing of rape kits. This new law—and its funding—builds on progress in the 2015 session, in which Legal Voice and our allies successfully advocated for legislation to ensure the prompt testing of kits. These two laws lay a strong groundwork for ending the rape kit backlog, but there is still much work to do.
As we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we celebrate this important progress in Washington State. This year’s SAAM campaign focuses on ways that individuals, communities, and the private sector can help prevent sexual violence—and rape kit reform is an important tool in this effort by helping to identify and prosecute rapists, particularly serial offenders.