NEW YORK – The 2018-2019 State budget finalized in the early morning hours of April 1 contained Assemblymember Aravella Simotas’ legislation ensuring sexual assault survivors greater opportunity to seek justice by preventing the premature destruction of sexual assault evidence kits, commonly referred to as rape kits. Under the new law, the rape kits must be preserved for 20 years.
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas said, “Preserving untested rape kits preserves a victim’s right to move forward with a prosecution of the perpetrator. No sexual assault survivor should ever be told that a prosecution is not possible because a rape kit was disposed of prematurely.”
Currently if a victim chooses not to make an immediate police report, the hospital that collects the rape kit is only required to retain the evidence for 30 days before it can be discarded. This is often not enough time for a traumatized victim to make a decision about moving forward with a criminal complaint. The legislation requires that such rape kits be retained for at least 20 years at a centralized, secure storage facility.
The new law will also:
- Ensure that sexual assault survivors are not billed for the sexual assault forensic exam. Even if a survivor has private insurance, she or he can choose to have the New York State Office of Victim Services reimburse the hospital where the exam was conducted.
- Create a tracking system so sexual assault survivors are notified where their kits are stored and when the 20-year storage period is about to expire.
“Compassion must always be paramount in the law enforcement response to sexual assault victims. Preserving rape kits is the right thing to do and it will help lock up dangerous criminals,” Assemblymember Simotas said.