As a college student, I have paid particular attention to sexual assault policies on college campuses. I believe there are some important reforms we can take.
Connecticut is currently struggling with a backlog of rape kits. More than 800 kits are yet to be tested due to tons of delays in state labs. I want to propose the implementation of a tracking system that can follow the path of the kit throughout the entire process. The victim would be notified when the kit is submitted into the lab, when it is entered into the DNA database, and when there is a match. With this, we can also create a multidisciplinary taskforce or workgroup comprised of law enforcement, crime lab personnel, prosecutors, victim advocates, and sexual assault forensic examiners to develop recommendations.
To promote productivity, I believe the legislature should mandate a deadline that kits be tested by. If the state labs cannot meet the deadline, kits should be sent to private labs.
Colorado’s kit legislation resulted in new leads and convictions within the first 18 months. A total of 3,542 untested rape kits were collected from roughly 300 law enforcement agencies from across the state. Over the course of those 18 months, the state spent 3.5M and used four out of state laboratories to test all of the kits. The results were simply incredible: 1,561 DNA profiles were produced and generated 691 investigative leads. The successful testing of these kits offered justice to hundreds of victims of sexual assault.
In most cases, the decision on whether to send a rape kit for testing rests solely with the officer in charge of the case. Officers and detectives tend to choose not to test kits if the victim is unable to identify an attacker, or if for whatever reason, the officer doesn’t perceive the victim as credible. Furthermore, officers can (understandably) misinterpret survivor’s reactions and choices in the immediate aftermath of the assault or lack understanding of the trauma they just went through. We need to seriously rethink some of the procedural obstacles. Changing this part of the law can also exonerate the wrongly accused. Hundreds of people have been exonerated through this method according to the Innocence Project.
Thanks to kit testing, we saw for the first time someone cleared of a crime without the convicted person requesting a new trial. There person who was actually guilty of the crime could not be prosecuted because of the state’s existing statute of limitations law. The violent criminal walked free while an innocent man served 12 years in prison. Legislative changes would make for a fairer criminal justice system.
With all that being said, we all need to be more responsible. For a truly equal system, I also will propose harsher penalties for those who falsely accuse another of sexual assault. We can completely change our culture, through accountability and morality.
What do you think? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org