New Wisconsin laws aim to prevent backlog of sexual assault kits, support survivors

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during his...
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during his address at the inauguration of Gov. Tony Evers, right, at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Kaul has filed a motion to withdraw the state from an ongoing federal lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Kaul filed the motion Thursday after fellow Democrat, Evers, ordered him to withdraw Wisconsin from the lawsuit. Kaul had been blocked from taking action under a law passed by the Republican Legislature in a lame-duck session shortly before he took office. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)(NBC15)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 1:47 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Governor Tony Evers signed two pieces of legislation Monday that will help prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits and provide better tracking of those kits for survivors.

Prior to this legislation, there was no clear statutory procedure for collecting and processing the kits. Attorney General Josh Kaul explained that this contributed to thousands of kits going untested and not being sent to the state crime laboratory until recently.

Gov. Tony Evers signed Senate Bill 71, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 116, among state legislators, law enforcement, victim service providers and survivors.

“Thank you to the survivors, law enforcement officers, victim service providers, prosecutors, sexual assault nurse examiners, victim advocates, and many people at DOJ who committed countless hours to developing and advocating for this legislation,” Kaul said. “Wisconsin will be safer because this bill has become law.”

Survivors will now have the choice on whether or not to report to law enforcement once a health care worker collects the sexual assault evidence, Kaul continued.

If they choose not to report, the health care worker will send the kit to the state crime lab within 72 hours and the lab will store it for up to 10 years, or until the survivor reports it to law enforcement.

Those who choose to report it to police will allow a healthcare professional to contact authorities within 24 hours of collecting the sexual assault kit. Law enforcement will then have three days to collect the kit from a health care professional and 14 days to send the kit to a state crime lab, Kaul added.

Gov. Evers also signed Senate Bill 94, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 117, to create a tracking system for survivors to access information about their kit as it moves through the criminal justice system.

“Victims and survivors of sexual assault have already gone through the unimaginable, and their path to justice should never be obstructed or delayed,” said Gov. Evers. “I am proud to sign these bills today, increasing transparency and accountability in the state’s testing process for sexual assault kits to help prevent future delays in justice for victims while empowering survivors with resources to track their kits directly.”

The Department of Justice will need to establish a database to provide survivors with access to the information.

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