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Sweeney-Weinberg Bill to Conduct Study of Untested Rape Kits Becomes Law

TRENTON – The Governor today enacted into law legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that will have the Attorney General conduct an audit of untested “rape kits” collected by law enforcement agencies in New Jersey.

“The study of the untested kits would help to get clarity on the policies and procedures that regulate the testing and what the state can do to empower victims who might be reluctant to report these crimes,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Having this information and understanding the process can help ensure that survivors of sexual violence get justice and are treated with respect and dignity in the process.”

“It can be difficult for sexual assault survivors to come forward and report their perpetrators,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “We need to have a better understanding of why some of these kits go untested. The data gained may help us develop better ways to counsel rape or assault survivors about their options, to train medical and law enforcement personnel to deal more effectively with sexual assault survivors and ultimately bring to justice more sexual predators.”

The law, S-1216, will have the attorney general work in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault to develop a survey of the sexual assault examination kits in the possession of law enforcement agencies that have not been submitted to a lab for serology or DNA testing.

The audit would gather information about the rape kits that are collected each year, including how many kits are tested and why others are not.  This will help to identify gaps in response and procedures in the processing of forensic evidence. The attorney general would then prepare a report for the governor and the Legislature summarizing the information contained in the responses to the survey.