Wisconsin DOJ discusses new sexual assault kit legislation

The Wisconsin DOJ hosts a public hearing over the new state law that aims to prevent a future...
The Wisconsin DOJ hosts a public hearing over the new state law that aims to prevent a future backlog of sexual assault kits(WBAY)
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:30 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As Action 2 News reported last week, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced a new state law that’s designed to prevent a future backlog of sexual assault kits, which went into effect on Friday, July 1.

During a public hearing Wednesday morning, the DOJ explained how this law will help ensure that all sexual assault kits are collected and sent to the state crime lab, quickly and efficiently.

“We want to make sure that Wisconsin never has another backlog of untested sexual assault kits again, and we’ve now got legal requirements that every kit be submitted,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

Kaul says that prior to this legislation, there was no clear procedure for the collection, processing, and retention of sexual assault kits.

“We’ve also got a kit tracking system that we’ve launched, which allows survivors but also crime lab staff and law enforcement to see where the kits are in the testing process so we can make sure that backlogs aren’t developing,” Kaul explained.

Attorney General Kaul explained that about a decade ago, the DOJ found over 6,000 kits stored in evidence locker rooms at law enforcement agencies, and others in hospitals, that were never submitted to the state crime lab for testing.

Kaul says the DOJ determined more than 4,000 of those kits still needed to be tested, which now have all gone through the testing process, ending the backlog.

In addition to procedures that will help prevent a backlog in the future, the new law also gives victims the choice to report their assault to law enforcement.

“Under these new rules that just recently came into effect, every sexual assault kit that’s collected in Wisconsin needs to be sent to the crime labs,” Kaul said.

When health care providers collect evidence for a sexual assault kit, the survivor will have the choice to report it to law enforcement or not. If they choose not to, the health care worker will send the kit to Wisconsin crime laboratories for storage within 72 hours. Kaul explained that the crime lab will then store the kit for 10 years or until the survivor decides to report it.

If a survivor does choose to report it, the DOJ explained that the health care worker will tell officials within 24 hours after collecting the kit. Law enforcement will then have 72 hours to collect the kit from health care workers and 14 days to send it to state crime labs.

“We also want to send a clear message to survivors of sexual assault across the state of Wisconsin, that we stand with them and that law enforcement is committed to vigorously pursuing justice in our cases,” said Kaul.

“As a survivor who didn’t have charges brought forward, I felt like my assault didn’t matter. But, to have someone not only make the claim that they stand with survivors, but also support it with actual legislation with a clear initiative to make things better, I think adds more meaning to that,” said Marie Franklin, a sexual assault survivor from Green Bay.

Franklin says hearing about this new legislation made her feel hopeful for other survivors in the future.

“I think that this will really help get people justice in the long run,” Franklin explained.

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