Thousands of rape kits gathering dust will now get tested

Apr 24, 2019, 10:09 AM
Rape kits...

The thousands of untested rape kits that have been sitting on evidence shelves for years in our state will soon be a thing of the past.

RELATED: WSP asks for $6 million to address rape kit backlog
RELATED: State’s solution to backlog of rape kits could be in Ohio

Ten thousand untested rape kits, have gathered dust on evidence shelves for years, and in some cases decades. They were discovered in 2014 but progress was slow.

For years a team made up of a handful of lawmakers, law enforcement, and sexual assault survivors worked tirelessly to change that, and this year that work finally paid off, as the legislature made clearing the rape kit backlog a priority, getting a bill to the governor’s desk.

“Today I was honored to sign HB 1166, which is an important next step in our efforts to end the backlog of untested rape kits and ensure better support of sexual assault survivors,” Gov. Inslee said on Twitter.

The governor signed a bill Tuesday that finally requires every one of those kits be sent for testing, and that the testing be completed in two years. It creates a new high tech lab, and hires more staff.

The hope is to cut testing time of future kits down from more than a year, to just six weeks. The bill also ensures rape victims can get a rape kit at no cost, includes new training for police who deal with victims, and puts a moratorium on destroying untested kits, no matter how old they are.

When Gov. Inslee signed the bill, it was an emotional moment for everyone who worked so hard over the past five years to get it done, including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tina Orwall.

“It’s hard to find words — so many survivors we let down, we can tell today ‘no more.’ There will never be a kit sitting on a shelf untested in this state again,” said Rep. Orwall. “We will seek justice for survivors like we should have years ago. I’m just so proud everyone came together to make this happen.”

For sexual assault survivors like Leah Griffen, this sends a strong message, and helps provide some closure.

“For years, the evidence of possibly the worst thing that’s ever happened to us just sat forgotten on a shelf,” said Griffen. “And now, we know that the state says, ‘this is important, what happened to you matters, your pain is valid, and we’re going to do a complete and thorough investigation.'”

Unfortunately, news that all these kits had sat untested for years had sent a message to many rape victims that had many believing nobody cared.

But Leah has a new message for anyone who has not come forward.

“There are champions like Tina Orwall out here, that are tearing down barriers; that are reforming the system, in radical, and important ways, and while we still aren’t done yet, what happened to you matters,” she said.

State Patrol Captain Monica Alexander helped craft the bill, and said that it’s a huge step forward for public safety.

“It’s about safe communities. It’s about getting people off the street that shouldn’t be there: People that have been free to continue rape, or walk free after they’ve raped someone for years. It’s about stopping that,” said Alexander.

As for what comes next?

“Work,” she noted. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but getting our scientists to actually have the tools that they need to do the work is important. The people in our Vancouver lab are passionate about their work, but they need the tools. They’re standing by; they’re ready to go. ”

The next steps will be to get the new lab up and running in the months ahead, get all of the old kits sent for testing by October, have them completed by 2021.

Local News

Nicole Jennings

Seattle attorney representing 737 MAX victims’ families weighs in on Boeing arraignment

A Seattle attorney representing 50 of the families of victims of the Boeing 737 MAX crashes gives his take on the fraud charge against Boeing.
23 hours ago
Frank Sumrall

Seattle finally experiences first 5 p.m. sunset of 2023

Ninety days have passed since Seattle saw a sunset at or later than 5 p.m., but the city will enjoy its first 5 p.m. sunset this week.
23 hours ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Poll: Nearly half feel we are nearing the end of the world

In a KIRO Newsradio Twitter poll, almost half of all participants feel we are nearing the end of the world.
23 hours ago
Micki Gamez

Study: Staying in standard time leads to more deer-vehicle collisions

When we turn back our clocks each November, we increase our chances of hitting deer because they come out in abundance at night.
23 hours ago
ballard business owners...
Jake Chapman, KIRO 7 News

Woman hit and killed by SPD car identified; officer was responding to call nearby

According to police, the officer was heading north on Dexter Avenue North on Monday night, responding to a ‘priority one’ call.
23 hours ago
L.B. Gilbert

Mount Rainier, national parks receive ‘record-setting’ $1.1 million

Washington’s National Park Fund announced that they were distributing $1.1 million to use at projects to improve the parks.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Thousands of rape kits gathering dust will now get tested