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!