The language now burning on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk in the amendment section of the budget bill that sits indefinitely on laboratory shelves – decades old – many decades old rape, will close the gap in the legislature that has left more than 300 rape kits.
D-Leominster, Rep. Natalie Higgins says, “Why is it an incredibly dramatic collection of evidence that survivors sat on only one shelf in 722 hours of violent crime,” “it really breaks confidence.”
Higgins helped draft a 2018 bill that changed the tracking process for rape kits, requiring all samples to be tested within 30 days of collection requ The next year, the legislature and Buck allocated $ 8 million to address the backlog of about 400 unspecified kits.
A state’s inventory audit finally found more than 300 detected rape kits in the 1980s and 1990s, around 2000. An amendment filed by Higgins for the 2022 budget would force the State Crime Lab to outline those samples – or a plan to do so – by the end of the year.
This difference is reflected in the single word: “not submitted.”
According to Higgins, in 2012, lawyers took the rape kit without the consent of the community to explain that not all rape kits were tested for DNA, but the State Police Crime Lab is the only kit that has not been submitted to the lab by the police department.
Rape kit test backlogs are not a Massachusetts issue. The Joyful Heart Foundation, the organization that advises lawyers to test all rape-related kits for DNA in a timely manner, estimates that “millions of rape kits sit seamlessly across police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country.”
There are countless reasons why evidence of sexual harassment from a rape kit may not be processed, but the JHF says two common reasons are that detectives or prosecutors do not apply for DNA analysis. These kits can be used to store any police evidence indefinitely.
At the Massachusetts State Crime Lab, a spokesman for the Office of Public Safety and Security said at least 2,000 of the unspecified kits were never tested because district attorneys did not explicitly tell scientists. Other reasons for not being examined include when a victim does not want to go ahead, if the identity of the offender has been determined, or if cases are already being tried.
Still, Higgins, a survivor of sexual harassment, said no one gets the rape kit process “they hope it stays on a shelf year after year.”
“It’s heartbreaking and frustrating that they’ll try to cover this up,” Higgins said, adding that last year was an incredibly sensitive process for me to refer to correcting the loofah – facing so much resistance for such a brain. “
Minority Leader Rep. Joining Brad Jones, R-North Reading, House Speaker Ronald Mariano said closing the gap was a priority, leading to the charge to be added to the 2022 budget.
“We reaffirm our commitment to all survivors to wait for the judges and to place new accountability measures on those responsible for implementing this program,” Mariano said in a statement.
Baker expects the bill to be signed, vetoed or amended by Monday.