(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Members Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Nancy Pinkin to conduct a study of untested sexual assault exam kits in the state to get clarity on the policies and procedures that regulate the testing, and what the state can do differently to empower victims who might be reluctant to report these crimes.
“Now more than ever we see how difficult it is for victims to come forward and report their perpetrators. Having this information and understanding the process can help ensure that victims of sexual violence get justice, and that perpetrators are held accountable,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
The bill (A-2370) would require the New Jersey attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, to develop a survey concerning the sexual abuse examination kits in the possession of law enforcement agencies in the state that have not been submitted to a lab approved by the attorney general for serology or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. The survey would be distributed and completed by every law enforcement agency in the state that is responsible for the collection, storage and maintenance of sexual examination kits.
“This survey can help identify any issues and resources that may be needed to ensure that victims are less reluctant to report these crimes to law enforcement,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “We must do everything in our ability to make victims feel safe and to bring justice for the heinous crimes committed against them.
Under the bill, the survey would have to include, but not be limited to, questions designed to elicit responsive information concerning: (1) agency policies and procedures governing the submission of sexual assault examination kits to an approved forensic laboratory for testing, including specific submission criteria and timelines and victim notifications; agency policies and procedures for logging, tracking and storing sexual assault examination kits; and descriptive, statistical and other relevant information about the sexual assault examination kits currently in the agency’s possession; and such other information as the attorney general deems appropriate.
The attorney general would have to prepare a report for the governor and the Legislature summarizing the information contained in the responses to the survey. The report would not contain any personal or identifying information about any victim.
The bill was released by the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee.