Kristine Hall – Policy Director
…and why the conversation cannot stop there.
Victims may choose to have a special medical exam following a sexual assault to preserve possible evidence and receive medical care. This evidence, often called a “rape kit” is called a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (P.E.R.K. in Virginia). There’s been increased attention on “rape kit” backlogs and the success that some states are having in identifying serial offenders when they tested kits that had not previously been submitted by law enforcement.
Recently, Virginia passed legislation to conduct an inventory of untested PERKs and found over 2,300 untested kits (End the Backlog). There are plans underway for processing the kits and creating recommendations to avoid future backlogs—including mandatory submission and testing policies. While these efforts are important, our work cannot stop here. PERKs are just one aspect of an investigation. These efforts alone will not restore faith in a system that has not served victims well and that many are reluctant to use.
We must thoroughly examine the beliefs and attitudes behind PERKs sitting on shelves and how they impact other aspects of an investigation. The inventory didn’t just uncover untested PERKs. It showed that our criminal justice system continues to fail—more often than not– when it comes to sexual violence!
I heard Carrie Hull with the Ashland Police Department once say “there is no such thing as a ‘he said, she said’ case. A ‘he said, she said’ case is a poor investigation.” I have thought about this statement and wondered how more effective our response would be if this sentiment was the core of our criminal justice systems’ policies and practices.
Kristine Hall is the Policy Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been engaged in sexual and domestic violence victim advocacy, training, and policy for over 20 years.
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