Justice for Sexual Assault Victims: We Must Do Better

Our children deserve better Alabama. So do our young women, and even our men. The state of Alabama does not currently keep an ongoing inventory track of the number of rape kits in evidence inventory by law enforcement organizations throughout the state, We don’t even have a statewide tracking system for them. On top of that, we do not have a commitment at a state level to Even test every rape kit That is completed from this point going forward, much less a commitment to go back and test or retest old rape kits that still sitting in evidence lockers tied to unsolved cases in the state. And possibly the most outrageous part of it all, rape victims are not entitled to be updated on the status of their cases or the rape kits associated with them.

We have tried to be better, but we have a long way to go.

The state’s two largest municipal police departments, Birmingham and Mobile, have received federal grant money and have committed to working through their backlogs of untested or partially tested rape kits. In Mobile they have even formed a task force with the district attorney’s office and other relevant interested parties, like rape counselors and advocates, to take a fresh look at the cases in which a match in the coordinated DNA index system CODIS run by the FBI was returned.

We have even tried passing legislation to improve things, but unfortunately our leaders in this state had failed us. In 2018 and 2019 bills were introduced into the legislative session to try to institute a tracking system for rape kits and grant victims of sexual assault a right to an update on the status of their cases and the testing of their kits, but unfortunately all of the legislation stalled in the sessions trying to do better is not enough. We need to actually do better.

In the 2020 legislative session, our state leaders need to have the courage to stand up and fight for those who need their voices to be heard in the process. Our legislature needs to pass legislation requiring the testing of all rape kits going forward from this point on, creating a tracking system for all rape kits in evidentiary inventory in Alabama, and creating a sexual assault survivors Bill of Rights ensuring that the victims of rape and sexual assault and their wishes are heard and understood in the process.

And if the legislature is worried about a bunch of ‘false’ accusations against a bunch of ‘upstanding’ citizens ‘overwhelming’ The court system I think we can point to the Mobile model to show them that’s just not the case. Of the 139 cases so far that have returned to hit from CODIS (which means the DNA was already in the system from a previous crime committed and prosecuted, so how upstanding can they really be?) Only four have led to fresh new charges filed against suspects (nine cases confirmed previous convictions). That’s a rate of almost 3%. The majority of the cases have led to the closure with no prosecution for reasons including declined by the prosecutor, deceased suspect or victim, or The victim asked not to move forward with the case, which should certainly be their choice.

We can do better Alabama, we need to do better!

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