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Politics & Government

Bill To Ban DIY Sexual Assault Kits Stalls In Utah Senate Committee

A photo of an evidence bag.
Renee Bright / KUER
/
Rape kits are used to collect evidence of a sexual assault. Both prosecution and defense attorneys testified Wednesday that DIY versions of these kits are not typically admissible in court.

A bill that would ban the sale of DIY rape kits stalled in a Senate committee Wednesday.

Rape kits are used to collect evidence of a sexual assault. Both prosecution and defense attorneys testified that DIY versions of these kits are not typically admissible in court because it’s difficult to prove a chain of custody. That’s required to prove that the evidence presented in court is authentic and hasn’t been tampered with.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said a better option could be to regulate these kits, rather than ban them. He suggested lawmakers should gather more information from the industry and come to a compromise with them.

“I'm having a hard time on the business side saying, ‘OK, we're just going to ban this product even though it's legal to sell and all that,’” Vickers said. “Another thing I think that we ought to talk about is some kind of requirement that if these are going to be sold, that there's a significant disclaimer put on the product.”

But Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said there was no compromise to be made because these kits give survivors false hope.

“I listen to the experts,” Romero said. “I listen to the defense. I listen to prosecutors. There is no way that this will ever be used in a court of law. And we're letting down victims again. I ran legislation just a week ago on affirmative consent that got voted down, too. So what are we telling survivors?”

Some critics of the bill argued that DIY rape kits provide more options for sexual assault survivors.

Brooke Haldeman is a sexual assault survivor and opposed the bill.

‘’False hope is going to two hospitals before I can get an examination,” Haldeman said. “It's being billed $794 for a kit that was told me was free by the state. It's being told my case was a he-said/she-said. … What real hope is allowing innovation for a system that's failing.”

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said there are many issues with the current system, but DIY rape kits don’t solve them.

“[If we don’t pass this bill], we're going to be here years from now listening [to] survivors that went through this do at home kit coming back crying because their cases were not able to [be] prosecuted,” she said.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee opted not to vote on the bill Wednesday, and could potentially take it up again. However, it faces an uphill battle because Romero said she was not willing to compromise with the rape kit manufacturers as suggested by some Republicans on the committee.

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