Survivors push new law to preserve sexual assault evidence

VIDEO: Survivors push new law to preserve sexual assault evidence

OLYMPIA, Wash. — With funding passed by state lawmakers last year, state crime labs are beginning to clear some of the backlog of 10,000 untested rape kits. But sexual assault survivors say some of the evidence they are giving is not being kept.

“The blood, urine, the photographs that are incredibly personal and private. All of the garments and clothing have been stored and are part of what we think as a society as a rape kit but that isn’t the case (that they are being kept),” said survivor Leah Griffin

Today, the House appropriations committee heard support for new legislation to tighten the requirements for keeping and protecting DNA evidence collected from those convicted of a sexually related crime.

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“We’ve really brought forth these best practices recommendations so we can better meet the needs of survivors,” said Andrea Piper-Wentland of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center

The pace of testing picked up after Rep. Tina Orwall’s legislation passed last year. When matched with the federal DNA database the testing is revealing unsolved sexual assaults.

“We’ve tested about 1,800 of the older kits and we have a 35% hit rate for those that enter into the federal DNA system. These are a lot of serial rapists and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to bring them to justice,” Orwall said.

Seattle police lost some rape kits before they were tested, it was revealed last year. Just one example, Orwall says, of how the rules for preserving DNA evidence need to be tightened.

“Law enforcement will pick up those kits and store them with other ones so we won’t see any more kits destroyed is what we hope for.”

The cost, survivors say, is small.

“For $34,000 we can make sure that we’re storing the evidence that survivors think is being stored and give people a chance at justice.”