The full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation, 75-0, sponsored by Assembly Members Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Nancy Pinkin to conduct a study of untested sexual assault exam kits in the state to get clarity on the policies and procedures that regulate the testing, and what can be done differently to prevent backlog of untested sexual assault examination kits.
The United States Department of Justice estimates that there are approximately 100,000 backlogged sexual assault examination kits awaiting testing throughout the country.
“Now more than ever we see how difficult it is for victims to come forward and report their perpetrators. It is especially difficult for victims who have to wait for the results of their test and for action to be taken due to a backlog,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Having this information, understanding the process and figuring out a way to move forward with testing can help ensure victims of sexual violence get justice, and that their perpetrators are held accountable.”
The bill (A-2370) would require the New Jersey attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, to develop a survey concerning the sexual abuse examination kits in the possession of law enforcement agencies in the state that have not been submitted to a lab approved by the attorney general for serology or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. The survey would be distributed and completed by every law enforcement agency in the state that is responsible for the collection, storage and maintenance of sexual examination kits.
“This survey can help identify any issues and resources that may be needed to ensure that victims are less reluctant to report these crimes to law enforcement,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “We must do everything in our power to ensure victims are safe and to bring justice for the heinous crimes committed against them.
Under the bill, the survey would have to include, but not be limited to, questions designed to elicit responsive information concerning: (1) agency policies and procedures governing the submission of sexual assault examination kits to an approved forensic laboratory for testing, including specific submission criteria and timelines and victim notifications; agency policies and procedures for logging, tracking and storing sexual assault examination kits; and descriptive, statistical and other relevant information about the sexual assault examination kits currently in the agency’s possession; and such other information as the attorney general deems appropriate.
The attorney general would have to prepare a report for the governor and the Legislature summarizing the information contained in the responses to the survey. The report would not contain any personal or identifying information about any victim.
The bill will now goes to Governor for further consideration.