Sexual Assault Survivors Share their Stories in the Search for Justice

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SACRAMENTO — Sexual assault survivors and allies rallied together to urge support today for the Rape Kit Backlog Contribution Fund, the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights and the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, three bills pending in the California State Legislature to help survivors receive the justice they deserve.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), author of Assembly Bill 280, the Rape Kit Backlog Contribution Fund. “Survivors of sexual assault who endure the hours-long rape kit exam process do so with the hope that it will bring their perpetrator to justice. Yet thousands of these kits sit untested throughout California. We must take action now to ensure critical pieces of evidence are not left behind.”

It is estimated that there are thousands of untested rape kits across California but the true extent of the rape kit backlog is unknown since California law doesn’t require law enforcement agencies to count or track rape kits. Rape kits are more than just evidence. They are the pathway to justice for every survivor who endures the procedure in an attempt to see their attacker put behind bars. Each day a kit sits on a shelf is another day when leads may disappear and investigative opportunities may be lost.

Three bills pending in the Legislature aim to bring justice to survivors of sexual assault by accurately counting the number of untested kits, providing a source of funding to test them, and expanding the protections provided to victims of assault.

The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, Assembly Bill 41, by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) requires law enforcement agencies to report how many rape kits they have collected and examined, along with the reasons why the remaining backlogged kits have not been tested. The bill will be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee this August.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know what happened to the sexual assault evidence kits they submitted,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “AB 41 gets at the heart of the backlog problem by finding out how many kits are collected each year - and provide a reason for any unanalyzed kits.  This data will shed light on improvements that law enforcement needs to make and tell us whether or not they need more resources to get the kits tested.”

Assembly Bill 280, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) and sponsored by Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, CPA, creates a voluntary tax contribution fund to provide grants to law enforcement to help reduce the rape kit backlog in California. The bill has passed through the Assembly, as well as two Senate policy committees with unanimous bipartisan support, and will be heard on the Senate floor this summer.

“Each rape kit sitting on the shelf is a person. We need to assist rape survivors to find the justice they deserve. AB 280 will allow the public to help these victims by voluntarily donating on their income tax returns. These funds provide additional resources for law enforcement to process the mountains of rape kits waiting to be tested. It is unconscionable to tell a victim she or he will not receive justice due to a lack of funding,” said California State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, CPA.

Assembly Bill 1312, known as the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights and authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), expands the protections and services provided to victims of sexual assault. The bill will be heard in Senate Public Safety Committee following the press conference.