JDI statement regarding Rape Kit Evidence Bill
October 18, 2016
PRESS STATEMENT FROM JANE DOE INC.
By MAUREEN GALLAGHER, POLICY DIRECTOR
Jane Doe Inc. commends the Legislature and Governor for their bipartisan boldness to take a significant burden off of survivors who are dealing with the aftermath of a sexual violence related trauma. House Bill 4364, passed by the House and Senate last week, will be signed by Governor Baker on Wednesday, October 19, 2016. The bill will require sexual assault evidence be preserved for at least 15 years in unreported cases. Currently, the law provides that evidence from unreported sexual assaults are held for only 6 months, unless the victim files a formal report to law enforcement or requests that the kit evidence be held longer. After that period, the evidence may be destroyed or sent back to the local law enforcement agency that would have jurisdiction.
While there is a process in place for victims to request the evidence be held longer than 6 months, JDI believes that this new provision will take a significant burden off of survivors who are dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence trauma. There are many factors that survivors consider in reporting a sexual assault—including their own personal safety and healing, concerns about whether they will be believed, concerns about using existing systems and the availability of culturally specific services. It is common sense that evidence of a potential crime be made available to prosecutors for the entire time that that crime may be prosecutable.
Sexual assault continues to occur in epidemic proportions in all communities and impacts victims of all ages, races and economic status. This legislation demonstrates Massachusetts’ recognition of what sexual assault survivors have known for many decades—that reporting a sexual assault can be difficult and have significant repercussions for survivors and they should be given the full support and full options of the criminal justice system should they choose to pursue criminal prosecution.
This is a critical step in further improving the sexual assault evidence collection process in the Commonwealth. We look forward to working with the commonwealth to ensure that appropriate kit storage, preservation, and tracking is happening at all levels and in all jurisdictions.
JDI is available for comment and will be attending the bill signing on Wednesday.
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