More rape kits would be tested under Schlossberg bill

HARRISBURG, June 5 – Victims of rape would be able to have their rape kits tested anonymously and without a police report, under legislation introduced by state Rep. Mike Schlossberg.

“Currently, a rape victim who is too traumatized to make an immediate report to law enforcement may decide to wait and begin the process of healing first. However, the rape kit taken at the hospital must sit untested for that entire time period. Under current law, the report and the testing are inextricably linked.  While the kit goes untested, a serial rapist may be free to harm others,” Schlossberg said.

Thanks to the efforts of local law enforcement, the Pennsylvania State Police and the state Department of Health, Pennsylvania has made great strides in reducing a backlog on testing rape kits. However, a recent audit by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale revealed that Pennsylvania’s law still has one serious flaw.

While the law gives victims the right to take up to two years to make a report and preserves their rape kits for that time, it does not permit victims the right to submit the kit for testing without making a report. The bulk of untested kits remaining in Pennsylvania fall into this category.

“Victims of rape face enough struggle. We need to have compassion for them. We need to give law enforcement tools to go after rapists to prevent other people from becoming victims and my legislation would do just that by fixing the flaw that exists in state law,” Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg said several counties have addressed this problem by creating a county protocol to give victims an additional choice. The victim may make an immediate report with all the information or they may wait and leave the kit untested and take up to two years to decide to make a report, or they may consent to the anonymous testing of the kit. Without the additional investigatory information, this anonymous testing limits the ability of law enforcement to investigate; however, it can aid in catching a serial rapist and strengthen other outstanding cases.

“No victim should be offered fewer recourses based solely on county of residence. My legislation would create a statewide protocol for testing rape kits anonymously which would also allow the victim to claim their kit and make a full report for that same two-year period,” he said.    

The new legislation (H.B. 2419) builds on the Allentown lawmaker’s work to advance protections for other victims: rape victims who seek child support, as well as making divorce easier for victims of domestic violence.