MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that legislation designed to prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits will go into effect on Friday, July 1.
The law seeks to ensure that sexual assault kits in the state are collected and sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Labs in an "efficient and expedient manner," according to a news release from the DOJ.
Prior to the legislation, there was no clear procedure for the collection, processing and retention of sexual assault kits in the state, the DOJ says.
The lack of a standardized process contributed to thousands of kits not being submitted to the state crime labs for analysis not just in Wisconsin, but the entire country. The new law creates procedures which will help prevent future backlogs.
The new changes will assist health care professionals that collect sexual assault evidence. According to the DOJ, a victim will have the choice to report to law enforcement or not. If the victim chooses not to report to law enforcement, the health care professionals will send the kits to the state crime labs for storage within 72 hours. The crime labs will then store the kit for up to 10 years, or until the victim decides to report the crime to law enforcement. This special feature of the bill provides the sexual assault survivor with options in the event they change their mind about reporting.
“Testing sexual assault kits can lead to the identification of violent criminals, helping to get justice for survivors and making our communities safer,” said AG Kaul during the press release. “This law will help ensure that Wisconsin never has another backlog of untested sexual assault kits.”
If a victim chooses to report to law enforcement, the health care professional handling the sexual assault kit will notify law enforcement within 24 hours after collecting the kit, according to the DOJ. The law enforcement agency then has 72 hours to collect the kit from the health care professional and then 14 days to send the kit to the state crime lab for analysis.
The legislation will also provide for DOJ to collect valuable information on sexual assault kits to better inform future evidence-based analysis and policy making. For more information visit here.