Addressing the backlog of rape kit tests

Content warning: The article below discusses issues pertaining to rape and sexual violence. Please take care reading.

Rape kit testing continues to pose a major problem throughout the state as 1,700 kits remain untested. The kits hold key DNA evidence to identify the perpetrators and find justice for the survivors. The testing process is often traumatizing for the survivors, as they must undergo a thorough examination within hours or days following the assault, and the process is highly invasive. Survivors consent to the testing because they want to protect others from experiencing what they went through, to find justice for themselves, and/or to feel safe again by knowing their rapist is behind bars. By not testing the kits, the state has failed in its duty to protect Minnesota’s survivors and has allowed too many perpetrators to go unpunished.

This year, legislators are proposing a bill to ensure the survivors who choose to undergo rap kit testing receive the justice they deserve. The legislation will require sexual assault examination kits to be submitted for testing within 60 days of its receipt. This time-sensitive requirement will help survivors know that they did not consent to the invasive testing procedure only to become another kit on the shelf.

To empower survivors throughout the process, the bill includes a provision to create a system that allows victims to track their kit and know when it has been fully processed. The tracking system would ensure accountability to the survivors and give them peace of mind by knowing exactly what is happening and when. We can also work to make the testing experience better for survivors by requiring a uniform consent form for sexual assault examination that teaches survivors about their rights and options for privacy.

Senate DFLers must ensure Minnesotan survivors receive the justice that they deserve by making sure no rape kit go untested. It is unconscionable that Minnesota has kits dating back to the 90’s. This problem has gone on far too long and needs to be rectified as soon as possible for the safety of our communities and for the good of our justice system. The proposed legislation will go a long way in protecting the rights of survivors and ensuring a backup of kits never happens again. (SF 3462)