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Stitt signs bill aimed at improving state's response to sexual assaults

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The budget deal Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders announced Wednesday includes $1 million to help address the state's backlog of untested rape kits.

Also this week, Stitt signed a third piece of legislation aimed at improving the state's response to sexual assaults and handling of rape kits.

Sexual assault survivors can choose to have an exam done to collect possible DNA evidence and receive medical care. Evidence that's gathered is preserved in a sexual assault evidence collection kit, commonly referred to as a rape kit.

A recent statewide audit revealed more than 7,200 rape kits in Oklahoma had not been tested for a variety of reasons.

Senate Bill 975 requires law enforcement agencies to submit kits for testing within 20 days if the assault is reported to law enforcement unless the victim asks that the kit not be tested. It also requires the use of one standardized sexual assault evidence collection kit throughout the state.

Kits must be kept for at least 50 years, or the length of the statute of limitations for the alleged crime, whichever is longer, according to the law.

The law also calls on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and crime laboratories in the state to work with a statewide task force to implement a “priority protocol” for the testing of untested rape kits.

The measure is one of several bills that passed this legislative session based on recommendations of the statewide task force created in 2017.

"It's exciting to see where we're at and the progress that has been made in the last couple of years," said Danielle Tudor, a member of the task force who is a rape survivor.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said the legislation will help survivors, provide more training for law enforcement and create a framework for how kits are handled in the future while eliminating the number of untested kits.

"I appreciate Gov. Kevin Stitt for acting on these important bills," Hunter said in a statement. "I also commend the dedication of the task force members, who put countless hours into working toward these achievements, as well as the members of the Legislature and bill authors for making this happen.”

Darla Slipke

Darla Slipke is an enterprise reporter for The Oklahoman. She is a native of Bristol, Conn., and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Slipke worked for newspapers in Kansas, Connecticut, North Carolina and Oklahoma, including a previous... Read more ›

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