Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, listen during a hearing at the Capitol in January 2017. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire file photo)

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, listen during a hearing at the Capitol in January 2017. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire file photo)

Pre-filed bill would require rape kit testing within six months

On Monday, Alaska House Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) pre-filed public safety legislation that would require the timely testing of sexual assault/rape kits in Alaska.

HB 20 aims to prevent a backlog of untested kits by requiring testing within six months, according to press release sent Tuesday by Tarr’s office.

“In many cases, rape kits are evidence of heinous crimes. Justice for victims demands that we find ways to remove bureaucratic hurdles and test these kits in a timely manner. Every day a sexual assault kit goes untested is another day that a predator is on the streets endangering us all. A six-month deadline should be more than enough time to send these kits to the lab, get the results, and start the process of justice for victims,” Tarr said.

The introduction of HB 20 comes on the heels of the successful passage of legislation last year sponsored by Tarr, requiring the Department of Public Safety to provide information to the Alaska Legislature annually detailing the number of untested rape kits in Alaska. According to the first report, the untested rape kit backlog stands at 2,586. Nationwide, that number could be more than 100,000 based on estimates by End the Backlog, a program run by the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation. HB 20 in its current form only applies to future rape kits collected and does not address the current backlog.

Rape kits are a routine part of medical examinations for victims who have reported cases of sexual assault and are used to test for the DNA of the perpetrator. Without specific laws or written guidance, the testing of these kits is decided by local officials on a case-by-case basis. According to 2017 statistics from the FBI and the 2018 report from Alaska’s Criminal Justice Commission, the rate of reported rape cases per 100,000 people in Alaska was the highest among individual states at 116.7, with the national average at 41.7.

“Having thousands of untested rape kits is not acceptable when Alaska leads the nation in the rate of rapes and sexual assaults. The DNA evidence in those untested kits can and should be used to identify abusers and provide justice to victims. Instead, many of the kits are collecting dust in some evidence locker while criminals walk free. That is simply unacceptable, and I encourage my colleagues in the Alaska Legislature to join me in supporting House Bill 20,” Tarr said in the release.

HB 20 is one of several bills filed for legislation before the beginning of the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 15. All bills pre-filed this way will be introduced first when the session begins and potentially sent to committees before other legislation.

• By BRIAN MAZUREK, Peninsula Clarion

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read