|February 16, 2021 10:13 AM
|Representative Joanna E. McClinton and Rep. Tarah Toohil
|All House members
|Establishment of 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 through bipartisan legislation and advocacy. While this is a positive development in our fight against sexual violence and assault, victims in Pennsylvania continue to call the network of rape crisis centers looking for answers. They consistently ask where their evidence is, whether it has been submitted for testing, and whether or not their case will be prosecuted. This is unacceptable.
After surviving the violent crime of rape and going through a forensic medical exam to gather evidence, at the very least 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 basic status updates related to their kits. It is true the untested rape kit backlog has decreased dramatically in recent years, but for any victim to wait months and months to hear about the status of their evidence is simply wrong. If we are serious about reducing sexual assault in Pennsylvania and empowering victims, we need a better system to track evidence in this state.
As such, we intend to introduce legislation that would create a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence, housed within the Pennsylvania State Police. 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. Additionally, our legislation will convene an advisory committee to come up with best practices in creating and maintaining the tracking system. In 2015, only one state had passed legislation creating such a system. Today, more than 20 states have passed legislation to take the first steps in developing similar tracking systems. In fact, Idaho State Police developed a sexual assault kit tracking system that is available at no cost to other states and is considered a model other states can adapt for their residents.
Pennsylvania has the opportunity to continue to be a leader for the nation when it comes to our Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act. This legislation will further help Pennsylvania align its laws and practices with best practices identified by the National Institute of Justice and other groups. A tracking system will create much needed transparency to victims of sexual assault, will support law enforcement’s data collection and reporting, and will improve multidisciplinary practices among sexual assault response teams in the Commonwealth.
Please join us in support of this important legislation. Every sexual assault kit is more than a number – it is also the face of an individual who lived through hell and is simply looking for justice. We owe it to the victims of sexual assault in Pennsylvania. We need to uplift their voices.
Introduced as HB1848