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Adult Victims of Sexual Assault

Rape Kit and Other Sexual Assault Legislation

In 2017, Oklahoma officials discovered a staggering problem: a backlog of 7,270 untested rape kits. A rape kit is the evidence collected during a sexual assault nurse examination, including DNA evidence. DNA evidence collected in a rape kit is compared to the national DNA database using an FBI-managed system called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, to try to identify the assailant. Typically, the evidence collected during a sexual assault examination is vital to prosecute an assailant. This means that in 2017, 7,270 rape victims awaited answers, and as many as 7,270 rapists roamed the streets. New legislation aims to correct this problem.

In 2019, Oklahoma created a new law requiring that all the untested rape kits be tested and stored. The legislation, S.B. 967, also created a new system to track rape kits, in an effort to prevent another backlog. The tracking system allows both law enforcement and sexual assault victims to track the location and status of a particular rape kit. After a sexual assault exam is conducted and evidence is collected, victims will be provided a bar code number that matches the bar code on their evidence collection kit. Sexual assault victims can then anonymously track and receive updates about the status of their kit, eliminating both waiting and guessing. The system will keep track of how many kits are in testing, how many are in police custody for evidence, and how many have been sent to state prosecutors. Legislators hope that the accountability of the tracking system will ensure all evidence collection kits are tested and accounted for. The tracking system will be run by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

All entities who may have custody of a rape kit, such as healthcare providers or law enforcement agencies, must participate in the tracking system. S.B. 967 also mandates that all rape kits must be submitted to a crime lab for testing within 20 days of collection. Kits are to be kept in maintained for at least 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations, if longer. The long-term maintenance of rape kits helps victims who may not immediately want to press charges but later change their mind, and it also keeps DNA on file of an assailant who may not be immediately identified.

Several other pieces of 2019 legislation also addressed sexual assault. The following bills have been presented in the 2019 legislative session but have not yet been signed into law:

  • B. 971 requires law enforcement to have at least two hours of continuing education per year on how to handle sexual assault reports.
  • B. 975 requires that all Oklahoma law enforcement use one standardized rape kit. This reduces complication, as currently 3 different kits are used across Oklahoma.
  • B. 2639 expands rights of sexual assault survivors. Medical facilities and law enforcement are to provide all survivors a document explaining their rights, including the right to track and receive updates on the status of their rape kit.
  • B. 1319 increases accountability by requiring law enforcement to create quarterly reports of how many kits were submitted and tested and how many sexual assault reported.

 

To learn more about how these new laws may affect your rights in the civil justice system, contact Koller law.