BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – In 2022, Louisiana had 711 sexual assault kits in the backlog.
A report from the Louisiana Statistical Analysis Center found that 5,508 sexually-oriented criminal offenses were reported to the state in 2022 but only 1,168 rape kits were received.
About 830 kits remained untested in Louisiana by the end of 2022, and 119 of those kits were in the possession of law enforcement. The state’s forensic labs had the other 711.
Why is the number of rape kits lower than the reported number of sex crimes?
“Simply put, for some sex crimes there may not be a rape kit examination carried out,” said Ilse Knecht, the director of policy and advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation.
Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by “Law and Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, has a program called End the Backlog. The program aims to eliminate the existing backlog of untested rape kits across the United States.
Knecht said some reasons could be victims may report the crime but not consent to a rape kit exam, or they go to a hospital that does not have a nurse examiner equipped to carry out the exam.
“Depending on each state’s definition of ‘sex crimes,’ there could be an instance where no DNA or very little is present,” she said.
In Baton Rouge, 131 rape kits were received by police out of the 576 sex crimes that were reported. According to the report, 255 of those reports were closed and 308 were left open.
The sheriff’s office had 172 sex-related crimes reported but received 68 rape kits.
Knecht said Louisiana’s rape kit backlog might be similar to other states.
“Lack of funding at labs to adequately test kits. Lack of protocol between LEA, MF and Labs to handle kits to make sure they get to the lab for testing. Police think that they can solve the crime without testing the kit, or police not believing the victim, thus not testing the kit,” she said.
Louisiana does not have a way for victims to track their rape kits. Senate Bill No. 169, if passed, will change that.
The bill, authored by Sen. Beth Mizell, would make law enforcement agencies submit a rape kit for every report and create a statewide sexual assault collection kit tracking system.
The bill passed out of the judiciary committee and was discussed in the House Appropriations Committee on May 22.
“Thirty-seven states have either implemented or are on their way to implementing a rape kit tracking system,” Knecht said. “Usually, advocates receive pushback regarding the cost of a rape kit tracking system. However, this bill made it out of the House Appropriations Committee rather easily on May 22. Though not definite, the bill looks to be in good shape to be enacted into law.”
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