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Lawmakers Revisit Issue of Unprocessed Rape Kits

shahram sharif via Wikimedia Commons

Utah lawmakers were at the state capitol today discussing how to deal with thousands of untested rape in the state. They heard from law enforcement, victim advocates and the state crime lab. But there’s still no consensus on whether all the kits actually need to be tested.

A mountain of untested rape kits is not just a Utah issue. It’s estimated 300,000 to 400,000 sexual assault evidence kits are sitting untested in the U.S. right now says Donna Kelly a prosecutor and member of the Utah Sexual Violence Council. So far, eight states have passed legislation requiring all kits to be tested. Kelly says she would support such a law in Utah.

“When we test these sexual assault kits, we are giving a message to a victim that your case matters, you matter, we’re doing everything we can,” Kelly says.

Republican Senator Daniel Thatcher says he also wants to make sure victims are getting justice. He says if there are kits with evidentiary value that are not being processed, that’s unacceptable and there is no excuse for that not being funded.

But Thatcher says he needs more evidence that ALL kits need to be tested before the state would fund such a law.

“We need to know if this is a legitimate backlog of evidence or is it simply we’re trying to put a perception of doing more because this is such an emotional issue,” Thatcher says.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank earlier this year told the city council kits are tested if a detective believes the evidence will actually help solve a case. 

But Donna Kelly counters; processing kits allows the evidence to go into a national database, which could help solve other cases and catch serial offenders. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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