Rep. Tarr’s HB 31 Will Help Address Alaska’s Huge Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits
Anchorage – Today, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed legislation sponsored by Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) to improve how law enforcement agencies address and solve sexual assault cases. House Bill 31 requires an annual audit of untested sexual assault kits and implements a victim-centered approach to reporting sexual assault. The bill also requires 12 hours of sexual assault training for new police officers.
“Victims deserve justice and a nonjudgmental process that respects them and acknowledges the trauma they’ve experienced,” said Rep. Tarr. “I believe HB 31, and the $2.75 million in the capital budget for testing, will create a new gold standard for reporting and testing that gives all victims options while shielding them from further harm. This is a win-win for justice.”
The Alaska rape rate is 2.5 times the national average and child sexual assault in Alaska is almost six times the national average. DNA evidence obtained through testing sexual assault kits can corroborate a victim’s account, identify a suspect, link cases, and identify serial rapists. Alaska’s rape kit reform has been a multi-year effort with support from multiple stakeholders.
“Thanks to Sen. Anna MacKinnon, Governor Walker, the Joyful Heart Foundation, the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, STAR, the Troopers, and many more Alaskans for their support,” said Rep. Tarr.
House Bill 31 gives survivors who come forward in the aftermath of significant trauma to undergo an invasive evidence collection exam more assurance that their kit will be tested, that they will have access to the information about their case, and the results of the testing.
“This bill puts justice for Alaska women and families at the forefront of our public safety efforts, by eliminating the injustice of having evidence sit on a shelf,” said Rep. Tarr.
House Bill 31 passed the Alaska State Senate by a unanimous 20-0 vote in May after passing the Alaska House of Representatives in April of last year by a vote of 39-0. Governor Walker signed the bill today during a ceremony in Anchorage.
For more information, please contact Diana Rhoades in Rep. Tarr’s office at (907) 269-0144.