- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A bill passed by South Dakota lawmakers aims to reduce the time it takes laboratories to test rape kits.

With some sexual assault victims waiting as long as half a year for their kits to be analyzed, lawmakers sought to address those long waits in their 2016 legislative session.

Last week, Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law the bill, which mandates that the complete analysis of rape kits must be done within 90 days after they’re received by laboratories.

“Up until now, the system has been backlogged, and I think the wrong message has been sent to victims,” said Republican state Rep. Lynne DiSanto of Rapid City, who sponsored a similar bill in the recently concluded legislative session.

DiSanto told the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/1N6qYMQ ) that the law lets victims know that the state cares about them and wants to help them in a timely manner so they can find closure in their difficult situation.

Sexual assault victims wait an average of six months to get the results from their rape kit test, DiSanto said, citing information gathered by South Dakota’s Legislative Research Council.

Rape kits are used to collect and preserve physical evidence in a sexual assault investigation, such as hair, semen and clothing fibers, which can be used to identify and prosecute the attacker.

The End the Backlog program run by the Joyful Heart Foundation said testing backlogs are a problem nationwide, and that a dozen states have recently passed laws addressing the issue. Isle Knecht, director of policy and advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation, said South Dakota also needs to work on tracking the status of kits and notifying victims of their rape kit results.

DiSanto said the new law is just the first step.

“When you’ve been a victim of a crime like this,” she said, “it’s the government’s responsibility to not only pursue justice, but to keep you informed of the process and to help you navigate a difficult legal and judicial system.”

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