A proposed measure that would require rape kits in Alaska be tested within six months — rather than the current 12-month deadline – is a long step in the right direction and long overdue in a state with the nation’s highest rate of rape.
The draft bill offered by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, would help get the 3,400 kits now gathering dust on shelves and languishing in drawers across the state finally tested. Some of them shamefully, unbelievably, date back to the year 2000.
Tarr’s measure would require the kits, used to collect evidence after an attack, be sent to an accredited lab or one operated by the Department of Public Safety within 30 days of collection. The lab would have six months to complete its examination.
Alaska’s problem is in no way unique. Rape kits, thousands of them, are untested across the nation. The Accountability Project estimates there could be “hundreds of thousands” of the kits containing DNA or other vital evidence of sexual assaults gathering dust in police stations. Alaska audited its backlog only after the Legislature, in 2017’s Senate Bill 55, demanded it do so.
The Atlantic earlier this year published “An Epidemic of Disbelief,” detailing the horrific problem nationwide. It is worth reading.
Every rape kit is a human story. Every rape kit might hold key evidence needed to catch and jail a serial sexual predator. Every rape kit potentially is a tragedy averted. Every rape kit untested is justice delayed and justice denied.
We seldom agree with Ms. Tarr on politics, but she is absolutely right to press this issue. In our view, a six-month deadline is much better than a year, but even six months is far too long. You need only ask yourself how many victims can be attacked in a six-month period by a serial predator to know that six months should be only an intermediate goal; that quicker is better when it comes to testing these kits.
That Alaska has yet to test its kits is unforgivable. There can be no excuse. What could be of a higher priority than stopping the rape of another woman? The women of this state, and the people who love them, deserve better.