By Rachel Barkin
Under California state law, victims of sexual assault are not guaranteed the right to have their rape kit tested. A person who has been assaulted can undergo all the appropriate steps— not shower, go to the hospital, request to have a rape kit collected— and still be denied their request to have the DNA of their assailant tested. DNA evidence strengthens the validity of sexual assault cases and prevents future assaults. Storing the information of perpetrators allows law enforcement agencies to solve crimes more efficiently and protect a community from a repeat offender.
The California Senate Bill 22 (S.B. 22) would mandate law enforcement agencies to send rape kits to a crime lab within 2o days and for the crime lab to test the evidence within 120 days. Creating this timely submission ensures that victims have full access to justice and reduces rates of recidivism. Currently, there are more than 13,615 untested rape kits in the state of California. These kits often provide valuable information for other cases that are being investigated, and by not testing them, our communities are put at-risk.
In 2016, the Begun Center at Case Western Reserve University conducted a study of 243 untested rape kits in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and found that more than half of the criminals linked to these cases were repeat offenders. If these rape kits had been tested, the Cuyahoga County law enforcement agencies could have identified 466 serial rapists and taxpayers would have saved $48.2 million dollars.
The backlog of rape kits can be attributed to many factors, but the major deterrents towards testing are a lack of funding, lack of clear policies, and law enforcement bias. Passing S.B 22 would make great progress towards ending the backlog in California by creating a clear policy that each case must be tested.
Currently, as you read this article, the State Senate is considering whether to pass S.B 22 and your support is vital towards the success of this bill. Message your State representatives, every time S.B 22 is up for vote, with Click My Cause mobile alerts. The Click My Cause app empowers you to speak up for legislation within seconds. From your iPhone, you can download the Click My Cause app and send pre-written letters to your representatives in support of this bill.
I have been using the Click My Cause mobile alerts for a year. Katie Cooney and I have used the app as a platform for our non-profit 2Bikes, to promote legislation related to sexual assault prevention and ending harassment in the workplace. We are currently promoting SB. 22 on the app and strongly encourage you to sign up for 2Bikes mobile alerts. This bill is essential to bringing justice for victims of sexual assault, reforming the criminal justice system, and creating safer communities.