|Posted:||August 21, 2020 03:10 PM|
|From:||Representative Joanna E. McClinton and Rep. Tarah Toohil|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Empowering victims of rape and sexual assault by creating a statewide rape kit tracking system|
|Pennsylvania has made many improvements to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act over the last several years. A victim’s zip code no longer determines what options they will have when seeking a forensic medical exam after a sexual assault. For example, they will be offered the right to submit and test evidence anonymously, for their kits to be picked up in a timely manner even if the crime’s jurisdiction is unknown, the right to consult with a rape crisis counselor/advocate, and for their evidence to be preserved for the full duration of the current statute of limitations.
Yet, today in Pennsylvania, victims of sexual assault continue to call the network of rape crisis centers that make up PCAR’s Coalition, asking where their evidence is, whether it has been submitted for testing, and whether or not their case will be prosecuted. After surviving the violent crime of rape and going through a forensic medical exam to gather evidence victims deserve the right to access information concerning that evidence in a timely manner. Yet victim notification procedures vary from county to county and victims continue to struggle to access status updates related to their kits.
In continuing to advance our practices and to best serve victims of sexual violence, we intend to introduce legislation that would create a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence. This system would allow victims to log-in any time to access the status of their evidence—where it is currently located, when it was submitted, and who to contact for help and more information.
Pennsylvania has an opportunity to continue to be a leader for the nation when it comes to our Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act. A number of other states have begun passing legislation that creates a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Carolina, and Idaho. In fact, Idaho State Police developed a tracking system that is available at no cost to other states and is considered a model other states can adapt for their residents.
This legislation will further help Pennsylvania align its laws and practices with best practices identified by the National Institute of Justice https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250384.pdf) and others. This will create much needed transparency to victims of sexual assault. It will also support law enforcement’s data collection and reporting and inform multidisciplinary practices among law enforcement, medical providers, prosecutors, and rape crisis counselors—practitioners that comprise Sexual Assault Response Teams throughout the Commonwealth.
Please join us in support of this important legislation.