Connecticut Achieves Milestone in Rape-Kit Testing Reform

This article was published on: 10/11/19 1:54 PM by Mike Minarsky

HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut has enacted reforms that significantly have reduced the state’s backlog of untested rape kits and will ensure the prompt processing of kits going forward.

Connecticut is one of three states being recognized this month for adopting six reforms recommended for ending the nationwide problem of rape kits that often go unprocessed for years.

In 2015, according to Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation, Connecticut had a backlog of more than 1,100 untested rape kits.

“Behind every single one of these rape kits is a sexual-assault survivor who has gone through this procedure to collect evidence,” she said, “and when they sit on shelves, it sends a terrible message to survivors that what happened to them doesn’t matter.”

By 2017, all untested rape kits in the state had been transferred for testing, and Connecticut now has electronic tracking of kits as well as policies to keep survivors informed of testing status.

Knecht emphasized that processing rape kits is important not only to bring justice for survivors but to prevent future assaults as well.

“Every time a rape kit sits on a shelf, there’s the potential for another person to be victimized by that offender,” she said, “and all the while, the DNA to stop that person could be sitting in a box on a shelf.”

By January 2018, the testing of backlogged rape kits nationwide had resulted in the identification of nearly 1,300 serial rapists.

In 2016, the Joyful Heart Foundation launched a campaign to get all states to adopt its recommended reforms. With the addition of Connecticut, Oregon and Utah this year, Knecht said, the total number of states that have adopted all six rape-kit reforms now stands at 12.

“We are looking now at 2020,” she said. “We are picking our top 10 states for next year, and we’re not going to stop the campaign until we get it done.”

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