Texas legislators approve $11M to process untested rape kits

What funding means to rape survivors


SAN ANTONIO – For years, rape kits have been sitting untested on the shelves of law enforcement agencies statewide.

"It's an extremely invasive exam and to be able to put yourself through that exam and then later learn that the evidence wasn't processed, it's pretty difficult for a survivor," said Co-Executive Director of the Rape Crisis Center Miriam Elizondo.

San Antonio also has an estimated backlog of about 2,000 kits that were never processed.

"It has not received high priority (and) our answer that we were given why it wasn't (was) the funding issue," said State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte.

The reasons vary, depending who you ask.

Sgt. Javier Salazar with the San Antonio Police Department said there were victims who didn't want their cases prosecuted.

Whatever the reason, the city of Fort Worth got the attention of the legislature when they decided to test rape kits that had been sitting on shelves for years.

"When they tested those 2,000 (cases) that were backlogged, they had 207 positive CODIS hits, which is the FBI database, and five of them were serial rapists," Van De Putte said.

The Fort Worth results, along with compelling testimony from survivors, was enough to pass Senate Bill 1636 -- essentially appropriating $11 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety to facilitate the testing of rape kits from police departments all over the state.

"I think what this bill is doing (is) allowing our survivors to feel validated," Elizondo said.

It is also going to fill up CODIS, the DNA database with hundreds more offender DNA samples, increasing the potential for cross-matching and convictions.

"It's always better to have the evidence there, than to need it and not have it," Salazar said.

The money won't fund all the untested kits, so priority will be given to smaller jurisdictions statewide, but San Antonio may be the exception.

"My understanding is that we're going to be sending 25 per week, 25 at a time, until the backlog is clear," Salazar said.

According to Salazar all current and future rape kits will be sent to the Bexar County crime lab for processing.

Elizondo is hoping this change will encourage survivors to report and seek support.

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