Okla. Govenor signs executive order appointing task force to handle rape kit backlog

Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 19:20:31-04

Sexual assault survivors may soon find healing after the Governor signed an executive order, demanding all rape kits be tracked to help collect evidence.

Today, a new task force was announced to address the backlog. Currently, Oklahoma does not have a statewide tracking system for rape kits nor is it mandatory to test them all.

Right now - law enforcement tests only about a quarter of them, leaving thousands to sit on shelves untouched across the state. But all that changed on Monday, giving sexual assault survivors new hope in the search for justice.

The plan is for law enforcement agencies to test and track all rape kits to help hold offenders accountable. Often times sexual assault victim's cases can be neglected for years, but with this new order, evidence can be collected to strengthen the case.

Danielle Tudor, a sexual assault survivor, spearheaded the plan and said victims no longer have to feel silenced.

"When you go back and test that backlog, you're giving victims who thought their case didn't matter... you're telling them that it did," Tudor said.

Sgt. Jillian Phippen, of the sex crimes unit with the Tulsa Police Department, said this is a big victory for Oklahoma.

"This audit will actually force us to put hands on every single kit, and then determine out of those kits, which one of those have been tested and submitted to the laboratory," Phippen said.

Advocates of this bill said the audit could eventually produce a data system of offenders, essentially targeting serial rapists in the state. Offiicials said Monday's executive order is just the beginning, and hopefully the state will soon produce a law that will make DNA testing of rape kits mandatory for all cases.

State Bill 208 is currently making it's way through the legislature. This bill, if passed, will give sexual assault victims the right to know what's happening with their rape kits, and the outcomes.

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