Sexual Assault Kits 07

A state issued Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit at Norther Utah Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (NUSANE) on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. NUSANE is critical of do-it-yourself sexual assault kits that are being marketed. They say the home kits are no substitute for trained nurse examinations and the evidence might not be admissible in court.

On Sunday, Standard-Examiner reporter Jacob Scholl reported on newly released figures between 2018 and 2019 from the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services on how the state is doing in processing rape kits in Utah.

Unfortunately, goals set by state officials to test rape kits within specified, set timelines are still struggling to be met. A backlog of sexual assault cases has reportedly impeded testing from taking place within established timelines. As the story states: “For first-priority, the goal is to finish testing the sexual assault kits within 30 days. For second-priority the goal is within 60 days, and for third-priority cases the goal is testing with 180 days.”

The bureau simultaneously reported, however, that it has made changes to be more efficient in processing cases to allow for increased and streamlined testing. This is integral toward helping more victims in the state of Utah. Changes aren’t expected to stop there; it also noted that it expects to see marked improvement by July 2020 on rape kit wait times, aiming to complete 90% of cases within 30 days of their submission.

That’s a wonderful goal; one we know many wished for years ago — and deserved decades ago. It will be overdue, but good news nonetheless for thousands of victims of sexual assault across Utah. This change will signify greater priority and importance set by the state in pursuing suspects of rape and ensuring the safety of other residents who might come across dangerous serial offenders.

According to a Facebook post by the Utah Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, as of Sept. 30, 5,036 previously unsubmitted or untested rape kits have been submitted, with 3,571 kits having completed testing — or approximately 70%. It also reported that 1,630 DNA profiles have been added to Combined DNA Index System, CODIS, and 673 suspects were identified through CODIS. Of these rape kits, 202 were determined to be serial offenders.

Testing rape kits is of significant importance. DNA evidence affords victims quicker, more reasonable timelines for justice to be carried out, while also allowing them the ability to process the traumatic events they’ve experienced. It provides crucial evidence in protecting the public from dangerous individuals who might otherwise be free for years before facing prosecution and due process.

For far too long, Utah has ignored the damning statistics, evidence and number of lives impacted by high rates of rapes in the state. The many women, and some men, affected by this have been woefully let down for decades by elected leaders, state offices and financial funding; but that is changing, and it must continue to change. Victims advocates are still needed, both in official capacities and as allies in bringing it to the attention of those who file the cases, prosecute the cases and provide funding for services.

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