State bill to track rape kit tests becomes first law of its kind

  • Fri Apr 1st, 2016 10:34pm
  • News

State Rep. Tina Orwall

A bipartisan bill that creates a system to track the status of rape kits was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday, making it the first such law of its kind in the nation.

“This is a proud day for Washington state,” said prime sponsor of HB 2530, Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, in a media release. “Passing this legislation means sexual assault kits will no longer sit untested on shelves and ensures survivors can seek justice as they track the status of their rape kits in the system.”

The Legislature passed a law in 2015 to mandate sexual assault kits, often called rape kits, be sent to the state crime lab within 30 days of being collected. HB 2530 and the Senate companion SB 6484, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, builds on that work by establishing a system to track rape kits, which are used by medical staff and law enforcement to collect DNA evidence following an attack.

The system tracks them from the hospital through the possession of law enforcement to the crime lab for testing. The system will also allow victims to go online and check the status of their kit.

“This law paves the way to justice for people in our state and throughout the nation as we set an example of what services should be available to survivors of rape and sexual assault,” said co-sponsor of the Senate companion, Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle. “These crimes are not only an attack on a person physically but on their sense of security and control. By empowering survivors to keep track of the progress of their kit, some of that sense of control can hopefully be regained, and ultimately ensure justice is served.”

Roughly $3.8 million was appropriated in the 2016 supplemental operating budget to implement this program. This funding will ensure the testing of 6,000 un-submitted rape kits, implement the tracking system and provide a grant for sexual assault nurse examiner services and training. The bill also creates the Washington Sexual Assault Kit Account with the state Department of Commerce, which is eligible to accept private donations.

Money will also go to study the availability of sexual assault nurse examiners throughout the state and determine whether more nurses are needed. The study is part of HB 2711, sponsored by Rep. Gina McCabe, R-Goldendale.