December 19, 2016

Rape kit backlog (finally) gets a lot more attention as legislative session nears

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“With policies to overcome troubling long-held attitudes about victims, support for service providers and adequate funding, New Mexico can help lead the way by taking a concrete stand against sexual assault.”

— Tim Keller, New Mexico State Auditor

New Mexico has struggled over the last year to come to terms with a horrifying reality.

Victims of sexual assault who submitted evidence from their attacks have waited years (sometimes over a decade) to see that evidence processed; often the first step in a long and difficult road to seek justice, or at the very least closure.

This problem exists across the county, but like so many things, New Mexico ranks at the bottom of all states in per capita untested kits.  

Public Health New Mexico reported some of the first articles on the rape kit testing crisis back in July of this year. In a series of stories, KUNM brought the subject to the forefront again.

Law Enforcement Works To Adjust In Light Of Ignored Evidence | KUNM

DEC 13, 2016 — We call the thousands of sexual assault evidence kits in New Mexico a backlog. But as the state Auditor’s Office pointed out in an audit last week, it’s not like there’s just a long line of envelopes at the labs waiting to be tested. Actually, the kits have been sitting around law enforcement departments all over the state for decades.


Nurse On Untested Kits: It Absolutely Breaks My Heart | KUNM
DEC 12, 2016

New Mexico has one of the worst sexual assault rates in the nation. And thousands of envelopes of DNA evidence that could help identify repeat sexual offenders are sitting untested. We’re taking a look at what it takes for survivors to provide that evidence in the first place.

Now it appears that progressive lawmakers around the state are committed to addressing this problem head on.

We reported to you last week that New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller released a statewide special audit of the untested sexual assault evidence kits.  This audit helps identify the largest problem areas and helps set the groundwork for fixing the backlog as well as ensuring that a similar problem doesn’t arise in the future.

Because the majority of the untested kits appear to be within the Albuquerque Police Department’s jurisdiction, Albuquerque city councilors are considering new measures at the local level to keep future cases from getting backlogged.

Elsewhere around the state activists have been at work for months to bring attention to the issue of the backlog. Back in August, a Las Cruces woman hosted a community fundraiser to not only to raise awareness at the local level, but to raise funds to help victims and advocates travel to Santa Fe next year to speak at the legislature about the need for permanent funding for testing, and victim’s services across the state.

We expect to see this issue continue to play out at local levels and around the state during the legislature. You can keep on top of how New Mexico is doing with ending the backlog of untested rape kits by signing up for our email alerts here.