JEFFERSON CITY — A statewide tracking system would change how sexual assault evidence kits are monitored in Missouri.
“Survivors of sexual assault crimes do not always have the ability to quickly identify if their rape kit is still in the hospital, in law enforcement’s hands, at a crime lab or, in some instances, if it’s been thrown away,” said Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, in a senate judiciary hearing Monday.
No agency in Missouri knows how many untested sexual assault and rape kits exist in the state, a Missourian investigation found last fall.
Riddle is sponsoring a bill that would address a “transparency problem” with how these kits are monitored.
Riddle commended Attorney General Josh Hawley for announcing in November he would conduct a statewide audit of untested kits.
“This bill will update our current technology and tracking abilities for sexual assault kits to provide more real-time information, to help reduce the backlog of untested kits and prevent future sexual assault,” Riddle said.
Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, spoke in support of the bill, saying legislation like this will go a long way toward improving how sexual assault and rape cases are handled in Missouri.
Coble said the language should explicitly say survivors will have access to the information so they can know exactly where their kit is in the system.
“Something to ensure that survivors of sexual assault know if the kit has been collected by law enforcement from the hospital, then if law enforcement has taken it to the crime lab,” Coble said.
The bill is expected to cost from $1 million to $2 million the first year. Despite the challenges of finding funding in a tight budget, many recognize this is an important issue that needs to be addressed, Riddle said.
Daniel Hartman, legislative director for the attorney general, also testified in support of the bill.
“These are kits that are tested hours after what is likely the most traumatic moments in someone’s life,” Hartman said. “It’s a very invasive test, and we believe that the victim should know where their kit is in the process.”
This bill will be another tool available to the attorney general to keep track of sexual assault kits.
“The attorney general is already responsible for creating forms for hospitals and law enforcement agencies to use when filling out requests for state reimbursements for these kits,” Riddle said. “This bill would simply update that form to an updating database system.”
This database would allow hospitals, law enforcement, crime labs and survivors to know in real time where a kit is.
“It shouldn’t be a lot to ask to process these things,” said Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County. “We want to solve these crimes.”
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