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Law

Proposed Wash. Bill Would Require All Rape Kits Be Sent To Crime Lab Within 30 Days

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Sue Ogrocki
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AP Photo
FILE - Tools used for DNA testing are pictured in a lab at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in Edmond, Okla, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

After a woman is raped, she undergoes a long, invasive process at a hospital where DNA is collected and a “rape kit” is put together.

Law enforcement agencies in Washington state estimate there are more than five thousand kits containing DNA taken from rape victims sitting on the shelf, never making it to a lab for further analysis. Kits often don’t go anywhere if the victim can identify the suspect. Other times, often in domestic violence cases, the victims won’t press charges.  

A bill being considered in Olympia would require law enforcement to send rape kits to the state crime lab within 30 days once the evidence is collected.

At a hearing for the measure, Rick Bell, a prosecutor from Ohio, said when his state started testing all of the rape kits sitting on its shelves, distinct patterns of violent crime were revealed.

“Of our investigations we’ve determined that 30 percent of the 244 we’ve indicted so far are serial rapists.  This is the one project in all my years as being prosecutor as a law enforcement officer that I have seen such wild, successful results,” Bell said.

The bill is still in committee in Olympia. It would not require the kits be tested, just that they make it to a lab. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs supports the spirit of the bill but says without state dollars to hire more scientists and lab technicians, all the measure would accomplish would be moving rape kits from one shelf to another. 

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.