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Rape-Kit Reform Bill Clears CT Legislature

DNA from sexual-assault evidence kits can link to suspects in the DNA database. (James Tourtellotte/CBP [Public domain])
DNA from sexual-assault evidence kits can link to suspects in the DNA database. (James Tourtellotte/CBP [Public domain])
May 11, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. – Legislation to improve the tracking of sexual-assault evidence kits is on its way to Gov. Danell Malloy's desk.

After a 2015 survey found almost 1,200 untested kits at law enforcement agencies across Connecticut, the governor established a working group to coordinate their tracking and testing. Senate Bill 17, which was built on that work, passed both the House and Senate with unanimous votes.

According to Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy with the Joyful Heart Foundation – a national group working on this issue – tracking can be key to both the criminal investigation and the healing process for survivors.

"This is a reform that helps all parts of the system know where a rape kit is at all times, to know if it's moving through the process as it should be,” says Knecht. “And it also allows survivors to check on the status and location of their kits."

She says Connecticut is committed to clearing its backlog of untested sexual assault kits and to quickly testing new kits as they come in.

Knecht points out that DNA evidence from evidence kits may establish links to DNA gathered from other sexual assaults.

"That identifies serial offenders, potentially, and it can link to offenders who have committed other crimes and been eligible for their DNA to go into the DNA database,” says Knecht.

She adds giving survivors the ability to check on the status of their kit can help counteract the loss of self-determination and control that is often at the core of experiencing sexual assault.

"Many times, when survivors leave the hospital, they never hear again about their rape kit,” says Knecht. “So, this is a way that they can take that power on themselves. If they want to know where it is, they can go into the system and find out."

She says passage of this legislation makes Connecticut among the leading states in the nation to take on rape-kit reform.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT