Bill Supporting Sexual Assault Survivors Passes Committee

HB 1166, an omnibus act to eliminate the state’s backlog of untested sexual-assault evidence kits, support sexual-assault survivors, and share DNA and other evidence in a national database that can identify serial rapists and prevent additional offenses, clears committee. Dan Frizzell from the Washington State House Democratic Caucus reports:

For sexual-assault survivors, insult was added to injury a few years ago when they learned that more than 6,000 untested sexual-assault kits were gathering dust in Washington state evidence labs. Potential serial rapists were going undetected, and justice for survivors was being delayed, often forever. State Representative Tina Orwall, a Democratic lawmaker from Des Moines, was the person who made that discovery, and she’s been spearheading efforts ever since to eliminate the backlog and require new kits to be tested quickly, with the results added to a national database. It’s an expensive process, requiring new crime lab facilities and additional personnel, but she’s made progress with every legislative session. Thursday in Olympia her latest bill cleared a big hurdle in the House budget committee.

ORWALL: “The first thing I thought when we found the sexual-assault kits is, I just felt so sad. I wanted to apologize to all the survivors we let down. We don’t want this to ever happen again. I am really proud of the work we’ve done in our state.  It is a huge step forward for us.”

Orwall’s House Bill 1166 sets tight deadlines for submission and testing of kits, provides specialized training for sexual-assault investigators, and establishes a sexual-assault survivors’ bill of rights. Next stop is a vote of the full House, which could come within days.  Reporting from Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.