A Utah lawmaker is drafting a bill that would mandate the testing of all rape kits collected from victims of sexual assault, including a backlog at the state’s crime lab.
Democratic Salt Lake Representative Angela Romero says her proposed bill would create a tracking system and database for rape kits, so victims of sexual assault can keep tabs on their case.
It also includes a requirement that all rape kits get tested, which she says could help catch more sexual predators.
“When kits are processed, we’re identifying serial rapists,” says Romero. “So a stranger to me might be a familiar person to another individual.”
But that’s not the only reason.
“It’s also about giving victims closure,” she says. “And letting them know that this happened to you, we want to make sure that if you went through this whole process that you’re going to get an outcome.”
The state’s crime lab currently puts the number of untested rape kits at about 1,400. That’s a decrease from more than 2,000 a few years ago thanks to a new grant and carryover funding from the state’s budget.
Romero says as the national conversation around sexual assault has shifted, so too must Utah’s approach to prioritizing these cases.
“We’re starting to go from ‘Well, what are you wearing?’ or ‘How much did she have to drink?’ to seeing it from the victim’s perspective, and I’ve seen that change.”
Romero is the Assistant Whip in the Democratic caucus. She has been working on issues of sexual violence and assault for the last three years, and helped pass the “Start By Believing Day” resolution in support of victims in 2015.
Romero says she doesn’t yet know the total cost for her proposal, but is hoping to attract bipartisan support for the legislation during the upcoming session.