Melanie Conklin

Evers Signs Law to Prevent Rape Kit Backlog

Attorney General Kaul campaigned on the issue and Republicans had stalled the bill.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Dec 7th, 2021 11:39 am
Tony Evers. File photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Tony Evers. File photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Bills to prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits from piling up in Wisconsin — as they did for years — finally made it to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk, where he signed them into law surrounded by law enforcement, victim service providers and survivors on Monday.

Attorney General Josh Kaul campaigned on the issue and pushed for the bills’ passage, even as some Assembly Republicans derailed the bills last session with partisan measures that drew criticism from victim advocates and health care professionals. Kaul joined Evers at the signing, praising the Sexual Assault Reponse Team that worked with the AG’s office in crafting the legislation first proposed two-and-a-half years ago.

“As I said when we announced this bill in April of 2019, this legislation sends a clear message: Wisconsin must never have another backlog of untested sexual assault kits,” said Kaul. “I’m proud that we were able to bring folks together across the aisle to enact this important public safety legislation that will help get justice for survivors and help put violent criminals behind bars.”

The bills ensures that evidence taken from victims of sexual assault, requiring invasive procedures, are sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab “in an efficient and expedient manner,” according to the Department of Justice statement. The new law requires health care professionals to notify law enforcement within 24 hours after its collection. Law enforcement then has 72 hours to collect the kit and 14 days to send it to the lab. There the kit is stored for up to 10 years, whether or not the victim decides to report the assault to law enforcement. This provides options for survivors to change their minds about reporting, advocates noted during hearings on the bill.

Noting that much more needs to be done to help survivors of sexual violence, Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison), praised the new law.

“Though long overdue, these polices deliver the support and protection that survivors of sexual violence have long awaited for,” said Agard in a statement. “The laws codified today will ensure procedures are in place that upholds survivors’ dignity, choice, and the right to a fair and just process, protecting those who choose not to report at the time of an assault, or who change their minds.”

“Victims and survivors of sexual assault have already gone through the unimaginable, and their path to justice should never be obstructed or delayed,” said Evers in a statement after signing the bills. “I am proud to sign these bills today, increasing transparency and accountability in the state’s testing process for sexual assault kits to help prevent future delays in justice for victims while empowering survivors with resources to track their kits directly.”

Kaul stressed that Wisconsin must never have another backlog of sexual assault kits, adding, “Wisconsin will be safer because this bill has become law.”

Measures to prevent another backlog of sexual assault evidence kits is now law was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.

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