SAN ANTONIO – Texas lawmakers are addressing issues with the rape kit backlogs plaguing the state with a new law that’s expected to be signed Tuesday by Gov. Greg Abbott.
State Rep. Ina Minjarez, District 124, helped co-author House Bill 8, which creates a timeline for law enforcement agencies to follow to ensure that rape kits are collected, tested and entered into a database.
The law will require that evidence be kept at least 40 years and that an audit of the untested rape kits be conducted. Under the law, victims will be updated on their cases.
“Law enforcement has a timeline to go pick up that kit. It can't be sitting there at the health care facility for an extended period of time. It holds law enforcement accountable,” Minjarez said. “It also makes sure that the victims are always notified where their rape kit is, has it been tested and if they want it destroyed.”
Minjarez said the backlog issues got so bad that evidence was stored in warehouses and some was damaged by mold.
The law will require a quarterly update to the state on the backlog to ensure that issues are addressed more quickly.
The bill also supports the training of more nurses in rural areas who perform sexual assault exams.
Minjarez said the bill is named after a Houston victim who was raped at knifepoint at 13 years old and was never informed about the status of her case. The statute of limitations ran out and her attacker turned out to be a serial rapist.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure that these kits are processed, to make sure that justice is done, to make sure that these cases are prosecuted timely and to give the victims their day in court and to make sure that they, that the perpetrators, are brought to justice,” Minjarez said.
“We support any measure that will help ensure rape victims get justice throughout the state,” said Christian Henricksen, chief of litigation for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.