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Tue, Apr

Let's Use the State Budget to Fight Rape

LOS ANGELES

GUEST WORDS-As we craft our state’s spending priorities for the next year through the budget process, one proposal deserves special attention: clearing the statewide backlog of rape test kits. 

“Rape test kit” is the term used for the combined hair, tissue and fluid samples collected by medical professionals following reported sexual assaults. This is not a quick process, but an invasive and potentially humiliating process which victims of rape willingly endure in order to assist law enforcement professionals in bringing their attackers to justice. 

Results of rape test kits reveal a tremendous wealth of information about the attacker, including the rapist’s DNA. They provide valuable information and evidence leading to the investigation and arrest of those who rape, as well as their prosecution and appropriate punishment.  

Rape is an absolutely indefensible act that affects victims from all walks of life. Rapists are cowards and bullies who attack without regard to race, class or gender. It is a crime of the depraved. 

Civilized societies have a fundamental obligation to protect the vulnerable, and it is the vulnerable among us who rapists target. It is a primary function of government to perform the jobs which are beyond the scope of the individual. Providing public safety must always be among the top priorities of government. How well we protect the vulnerable is a measure of who we are as a society. It is the crucial test of whether or not we consider ourselves to be a civilized people. 

Los Angeles has been a national leader in addressing the problem of untested rape kits. It wasn’t always this way, but the county has done an admirable job of clearing its own backlog. It’s time for other cities and counties to do the same.

This is why it’s so disturbing that we keep hearing reports about backlogs of thousands of untested rape kits throughout California. There are some legitimate reasons why a small percentage of rape kits aren’t tested, such as purported victims recanting accounts of their assault after rape kit samples have been collected.  But more often, law enforcement officials report that budgetary constraints force them to pick and choose among which rape kits are most worthy of being tested. This should never be the case. 

So at the time we shape our state spending plan for the next year, shouldn’t the analysis of back-logged rape test kits be a priority? The decisions we make reveal what we value and who we are as a people. 

The good news is that there’s bipartisan support to test these kits. I also support policies which will stop a backlog of rape test kits from accumulating again. It’s time to close the procedural loopholes which allow local law enforcement officials too much broad discretion when they assume results from rape kit testing will not reveal new evidence. 

Testing of all kits can reveal results that don’t match such assumptions. Moreover, processing this backlog of rape kits can help law enforcement establish a DNA database and see patterns of criminal behavior not evident from a single case. 

Criminal convictions for rape can help validate the suffering of victims and contribute to their emotional recovery. As it is with gratitude, justice not delivered is meaningless. Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s time to clear up the backlog of rape test kits in California. I have requested $10 million to be added to the state budget to clear this backlog. Let’s hope this budget item sees the light of day in the budget and is signed into law in June.

 

(Senator Huff represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter @bobhuff99.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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