The Mission to Better Preserve Rape Case Evidence

Playing Criminals Free Due to Backlogged ‘Rape Kits’?

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The Doctors are joined by Amanda Nguyen, CEO and founder of Rise, who is working to enact laws to help victims of rape.

They discuss how in many states there is an extreme backlog of rape kits. Some kits are thrown away, and sometimes only 30 days after the incident unless the victim instructs otherwise or unless it is sent to the authorities. They note there is a major inconsistency in how kits are processed and stored across states.

Amanda, who is a rape survivor, decided to rewrite laws regarding how rape kits are preserved. In 2016, she wrote the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights and got it passed. It protects kits from being destroyed before the statute of limitations. In cases where a state does not have a statute of limitations, the law requires kits be held for 20 years. She says the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights also notifies survivors of their rights and where the necessary resources can be accessed.

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She tells The Doctors that despite the federal law there are still problems with the system because rape cases are usually adjudicated in state courts. Rise is working to use the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights as a model law at the state level. She is happy to share that 10 states have passed similar laws since she passed hers at the federal level.

OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry explains that a rape kit entails a number of swabs, a clothing collection, collection of hair from the pubic region and your head. She notes that sexual assault victims do not have to report the crime before being examined. The rape kit exam can take place and the evidence collected will be placed on file for any future prosecutions.

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She also urges victims of sexual assault to not shower or change their clothes before the exam. In order to collect the best evidence, she also says to not use the bathroom, brush your teeth, brush your hair or eat or drink.

If you’ve experienced sexual violence or are in need of support, visit https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline to access the National Sexual Assault Hotline and to find more resources or call 800.656.HOPE (4673).