Monday, April 24, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the formation of the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence to address the backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits, commonly known as rape kits, in the criminal justice system in Oklahoma. The task force will conduct an audit of sexual assault forensic evidence kits in the state, pinpointing the number of untested kits, and then identify possible improvements in law enforcement training, victims’ rights and access, and the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits.
“Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and we should do everything we can to support the survivors,” said Fallin. “This new task force will examine all facets of the issue of sexual assault and sexual assault forensic evidence kits to ensure that victims are able to seek justice and begin the healing process. I thank Senator Kay Floyd for her work on this issue, and I look forward to seeing the results of the task force. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it is especially appropriate that we move forward on this important subject.”
Currently, Oklahoma does not have a statewide tracking system for rape kits nor a mandate to test all rape kits. It is estimated that only a quarter of rape kits are tested, leaving thousands of untested kits in police department warehouses across the state. In addition, current regulations are not very clear regarding when and how to destroy untested kits. The legislation that inspired this task force is Senate Bill 654.
“I am grateful for the governor’s interest in and support of this important issue,” said Floyd. “This task force will identify the number of untested kits in the possession of each law enforcement agency by means of agency audits, and it will also identify funding sources that are available to assist in financing the elimination of any backlog of untested kits. This should reduce wait times when kits are tested. I am thankful to state and local law enforcement agencies that have been a part of both identifying this need and in creating the task force, as well as Reps. Scott Biggs and John Paul Jordan for their roles in bringing this legislation to a fruitful conclusion.”
“Joyful Heart stands with the tireless advocates who have fought for justice in Oklahoma, and we applaud Governor Fallin for taking this important step toward giving survivors an opportunity at long awaited justice,” said Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy, Joyful Heart Foundation. “When the extent of a state’s backlog of untested rape kits is revealed, real reform can begin. After law enforcement agencies account for the untested kits in their custody, communities can begin to take steps to test those kits, hold offenders accountable, and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished, often for years—or even decades.”
“Thank you Governor Mary Fallin for your support and leadership in turning SB 654 into an executive order,” said Danielle Tudor, a rape survivor advocate and activist from Bixby. “It represents the beginning of hope and healing for sexual assault survivors in our state.”
Task Force members shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the governor, according to the governor’s executive order. Members are:
The executive order forming this task force, 2017-11, can be found here.