Bill aimed at giving rape victims justice breezes through House committee

03/23/2016 08:50 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would require that all sexual assault kits be tested in a timely fashion was unanimously passed by the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 63, sponsored by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, would require all sexual assault kits be submitted to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory and tested within 60 days by 2020.

The bill requires the average completion date for assault kit testing not to exceed 90 days by July 2018, and not to exceed 60 days by July 2020.

SB 63 also seeks to improve the standard of care victims receive at Kentucky’s health care facilities, improve accountability by providing for the collection and analysis of important data related to sexual assaults and enhance training of law enforcement into sexual assault investigations.

Harper Angel says that she was particularly happy to work with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, in a bipartisan way to craft the most effective bill possible.

“This is not a political statement, it’s a statement about human lives, victims, that need justice, and I was thrilled to work with Senator Westerfield,” Harper Angel said.

Harper Angel is particularly proud of the fact that the legislation requires victims to be updated as to the status of the kits related to their cases.

“They’ve really not known if their kit was tested, or not tested, or destroyed,” Harper Angel said. “I think this legislation speaks volumes that the state legislators do care about victims and will do what’s necessary to protect them.”

Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, is pleased with the net result of the bill.

“Policies will change so that there’s never a backlog at the lab again,” Recktenwald said. “Victims will get justice.”

Last fall, a report issued by former state Auditor Adam Edelen found that there were 3,090 untested sexual assault kits in the state and lengthy turnaround times for testing forensic evidence.

However, the Kentucky State Police confirmed to Pure Politics they still do not know exactly how many kits were untested.

Current State Auditor Mike Harmon said that resolving the untested rape kit problem has been a priority for his administration as well.

“At the end of our KET debate, (former Auditor Adam Edelen) actually reached out to me and said Mike, for some reason, if you are elected Auditor I would ask you to continue this,” Harmon said. “I indicated to him that obviously I had been supportive of Senate Joint Resolution 20 and I thought it was important for us to continue this.”

The bill now moves on to the full House for consideration.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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