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Oklahoma to tackle rape kit backlog with new law

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Floyd
Floyd

Oklahoma is poised to tackle a backlog of more than 7,200 untested rape kits.

Gov. Kevin Stitt last week signed a bill to create a statewide tracking system for collecting sexual assault evidence, which is the first of several legislative measures aimed at improving the state's handling of rape kits and sexual assault investigations.

Sexual assault survivors can choose to have an exam done to collect possible DNA evidence and receive medical care. Evidence that's gathered is commonly referred to as a rape kit. Testing the DNA in a rape kit often can help law enforcement officials find the perpetrator.

Senate Bill 967 by Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd creates a central repository for information collected from rape kits that medical and law enforcement officials can use to keep tabs on sexual assault cases.

The tracking system was an idea born out of the 2017 Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault and Forensic Evidence, a statewide committee that was charged with determining the number of untested rape kits and deciding how to proceed.

“The task force agreed a major challenge solving sexual assault cases was that law enforcement agencies around the state were using tracking systems that weren’t compatible with other systems. There needed to be a consistent process to investigate and solve these sexual assault cases,” said Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.

The tracking system created by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations is already operable and has undergone beta testing, Floyd said.

OSBI built its tracking system with software donated from Ohio, which first implemented a rape kit tracking system years ago. The cost to the state was less than $100,000 because OSBI received some grant money to help fund the project, Floyd said.

“It’s been ready to go, it was just waiting for the bills,” she said.

The system will track a kit’s location and whether it’s been processed. Victims will also be able to use the system to anonymously track the status of their kit.

Medical providers and law enforcement agencies will use the system to log new rape kits, but over time, they will also enter the backlog of untested kits.

The untested kits will be entered on a rolling basis based on priority, Floyd said. The sooner the statute of limitations is set to expire in a case, the sooner the kit should be processed, she said.

The law goes into effect on July 1 and all medical providers, law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories will be required to use the system by Jan. 1, 2020.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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