Almost immediately after a woman is raped, she must endure the invasive and often humiliating process through which evidence is collected. In most cases, an investigator swabs the inside of her vagina to collect DNA for a rape kit that will help identify her assailant. Imagine, then, if that evidence was never even examined, and police stash away the untested rape kit on a shelf, never to be thought about again.
Tens of thousands of women in Texas know exactly what that’s like—having undergone the rape kit collection process only to see the evidence go untested. In fact, the state estimates some 22,000 untested kits are collecting dust on shelves in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio law enforcement offices alone.
A bill by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, aims to address this significant backlog of untested rape kits. Senate Bill 1636, sponsored in the House by Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, passed in both chambers and will soon head to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.
The bill requires agencies to take inventory of all untested rape kits in their offices by this coming October. If the agencies don’t have the funds or personnel to test the evidence themselves, they must send their kits to the Department of Public Safety for testing. Also, local law enforcement agencies must send new rape kits to crime labs within 30 days of collecting the evidence, and then the crime labs have to test the evidence within three months.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Bill would probe rape kit backlogs, encourage testing
We should have a lot more information about backlogs of untested rape kits at Texas police departments this fall thanks to a bill by Sen. Wendy Davis that passed the Lege this week and is headed to the Governor. Reports Alexa Garcia-Ditta at the Texas Observer: