Thank You Thursdays: Groundbreaking Legislation on Rape Kit Testing Proposed in Illinois

We’ve covered the tragedy of untested rape kits at some length. Well, Human Rights Watch investigator Sarah Tofte, who spearheaded the initial work in LA, is currently leading comprehensive research in Illinois. Good news: she may not have to deal with the same disappointing reaction from the police department.

Chicago Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced new legislation introduced on February 9th, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-40th) and Rep. Emily McCasey (D-85th), that would require all evidence of sexual assault to be submitted by the investigating law enforcement agency within 10 days of receiving it from the hospital. If the bill is passed, it also would require all law enforcement agencies to provide Illinois State Police with an inventory of all untested kits in their possession. This may sound obvious, but this would be groundbreaking precedent for the rest of the country. There are literally shelves and shelves of untested rape kits in most states in the union (13,000 in LA alone), and the police are under no legal obligation to get the kits processed. Madigan explained the significance of the legislation:

“Women who are victims of rape put their trust in authorities to bring their offenders to justice. When evidence that is so painstakingly collected sits untested, stored away on police departments’ shelves, that trust is violated. This mandate must be put in place to assure rape victims that their cases will be effectively prosecuted and their offenders put behind bars. This legislation will put Illinois at the forefront of this issue and help bring about justice for victims.”

Tofte told Feministing:

This bill will make Illinois the first state to require every booked rape kit be sent to the crime lab and tracked–two reforms necessary for the state to account for and eliminate its backlog. Our research in the state so far shows that only 20 percent of all booked rape kits are ever sent for testing. This is unacceptable. If this bill is passed, rape kits will come flooding into the crime lab, and the state will see what we know already–thousands of rape kits have gone untested in Illinois, denying justice to victims.

Read more here.

If you live in Illinois, now is that time to express your support for this legislation with your local representatives and spread the word!

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6 Comments

  1. Lilith Luffles
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    And my dad says the dems in IL don’t do anything good for the state… Course he probably wouldn’t consider this a really good thing, but meh. Facts are facts and opinions don’t change them ^_^

  2. Nicole
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t even understand how this laws needs to be passed. Rape kits are forensic evidence. Shouldn’t there already be some law in place stating that in every criminal case, all evidence must be considered, including all forensic evidence? I imagine there is some sort of law, but that rape kits are somehow ignored or it isn’t properly enforced, leading to the necessity of focusing on one specific type of evidence to write a whole new law on.
    And that is a horrifying state of affairs. I mean, does this mean that women are going through the motions of having a rape kit performed on them, pressing charges against someone, and the legal system in place just wilfully ignores this key piece of forensic evidence? They don’t even bother to investigate? That’s terrible.

  3. that girl
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Here’s hoping they have the foresight and the funds to hire more people at the crime labs to handle the influx. Otherwise the kits will just sit in a different location.

  4. MiloJ
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m calling to thank the sponsors for taking this on. In case anyone else wants to here are their numbers in Springfield (and as they are in session right now, its the best place to get a hold of them)
    Rep. McAsey (217) 782-4179
    Sen. Hutchinson (217) 782-7419
    If you live in Illinois and want to find your Sen or Rep’s phone number to call and ask them to support this legislation – you can go to ilga.gov to find all of their contact info – its super easy!

  5. Dawn.
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    That is amazing news! Hopefully this law passes and it sets a precedent for the rest of the country because this is such a pressing issue. I mean, 20% of rape kits successfully tested in Illinois? That is enraging. And rape apologists unfailingly sneer, “why didn’t she go to the police?” If you have an 80% chance of nothing happening anyway, who would want to??

  6. ssankar
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Horrifying that this legislation has not been passed before. At the same time Go Sen Hutchinson and Rep McAsey for doing this.
    Does anyone know the statistics for the % of backlog rape cases in CT?

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