The state House passed a bill 82-15 Monday to prevent sexual assault examination kits from going untested.
House Bill 1068 requires law enforcement agencies to submit, within 30 days of receiving a rape kit, a request to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab to test it. The agency must have the consent of the victim for the kit to be analyzed.
Many cities across the country have started testing all of their rape kits, which are created at hospitals when DNA evidence is collected from sexual assault victims during an examination after their assault.
The State Patrol estimates that there are more than 6,000 untested kits in the state. The bill won’t require agencies to send untested kits now on their evidence shelves to the crime lab, but would require those agencies to request testing for all kits in the future.
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“It’s to make sure the victim’s voice is heard,” said Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the bill’s sponsor.
She said the legislation is about bringing justice to victims of sexual assault, and notes the success cities across the country have had in testing their kits. In some cases the testing of old rape kits has led to the arrests of serial rapists.
Orwall is convinced Washington can have similar success in catching repeat offenders.
“Part of why it’s important to test kits is to link these cases to get these really horrific offenders off the street,” she said. “We want to get them off the street sooner.”
Erika Teschke, director of the Seattle-based advocacy group Rape Kit WA, called the House approval a “great first step” toward getting the kits tested, and says she’s hoping the Senate will also pass the bill.
The legislation creates a work group to study what to do with the untested kits that already exist in the state. Teschke said she hopes the work group’s discussion would eventually lead to the testing of all kits now in evidence.
“The real work will begin once this bill gets passed,” she said.