PROVO, Utah – Brigham Young University professor Julie Valentine started her career as a forensic nurse, meeting with victims of rape and assault in the hospital and collecting evidence in rape kits.
Valentine’s job inspired her research.
“Soon after I started working in forensic nursing, I started to ask the question, ‘So what happens with all of these rape kits?’ We collect thousands of them. What happens to them? We give them to law enforcement, but then what happens?” she said.
She found some staggering results in a four-year study of four Utah counties.
“I found a submission rate within a year of a rape of only 22.8 percent, and these were all cases where the victim said ‘I want to prosecute,’” she said.
Valentine also found that the number one predictor of whether a rape kit was submitted for testing was purely in the decision of the investigating officers. She took her research to the capitol.
“So House Bill 200 grew out of that. It’s saying ‘Let’s take away the subjectivity. Let’s test the rape kits.’ It’s objective findings. It’s DNA findings,” she said.
House Bill 200 will, first, make it mandatory for police to submit a victim’s rape kit to the state crime lab within 30 days. Second, it creates a tracking system.
“Victims can track their own kit, their own evidence from their body. This gives a lot of control back to victims,” Valentine said.
Finally, the bill will increase the amount of training officers receive regarding rape and assault cases.
Senate floor sponsor Todd Weiler is working to get the bill passed in the Senate.
“The real issue is not just getting senators to vote, saying ‘Yes, we should process the rape kits,’ but getting the funding prioritized over so many other good needs,” Weiler said.
The ticket price for this bill is more than $2 million per year.
“There’s a cost to testing all of the rape kits, but we also know there’s a huge cost for not testing the rape kits. The cost for not testing the rape kits is we have serial perpetrators that we can’t identify,” Valentine said.
The House approved the bill, and it’s now in the Senate awaiting debate.
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