Neuman: Improved testing of rape kits deserves further attention

Lawmaker plans to reinforce his landmark law targeting sexual violence

HARRISBURG, Dec. 19 – State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, today said he is drafting legislation to further improve testing of evidence from sexual assaults.

“Pennsylvania is making great strides resolving the backlog of untested rape kits,” said Neuman, whose Act 27 of 2015 is helping to ensure that sexual assault victims and their families receive timely attention and justice. “However, we have more work to do, and I will have legislation ready for consideration as soon as possible in 2017.”

Neuman, who will be sworn in Jan. 3 to his fourth, two-year term, said House colleagues are signing on as co-sponsors of his legislation that would:

  • Establish a commission of local and state agencies to review funding needs annually and to improve communications;

  • Establish a hotline for hospitals to call if a rape kit is not picked up within 72 hours; and

  • Clarify ambiguous language such as “as soon as practical.”\

“The state Auditor General's Office did an excellent job pinpointing where Pennsylvania can make even more improvements to the state’s Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, which my Act 27 bolstered significantly,” Neuman said. “My new legislation would implement recommendations from the auditor general’s special report on untested rape kits and give them the force of law.”

Neuman said he is pleased by the early legislative support being provided for his follow-up legislation, saying it mirrors the unanimous support his Act 27 received throughout the House and Senate and their respective committees before being signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Act 27 uncovered almost 2,000 rape kits in Pennsylvania that had sat for more than 12 months without being tested,” said Neuman, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Judicial Commission on Sentencing. “Although Act 27 requires improved testing and reporting of evidence, I am not willing to say the job is done until every rape kit is tested in a timely fashion and every rape victim is able to seek justice.”

Neuman said his new measure will provide the next step toward finding a comprehensive remedy against domestic and sexual violence.

“After the enactment of Act 27 and the auditor general’s special report, the state Health Department and the state police established standards and data collection procedures to improve the process,” Neuman said. “However, we must build on those advances to address serious shortfalls in staffing, equipment and funding at our public crime labs.

“Through collaboration, we have been able to identify additional issues that need to be addressed,” Neuman said. “My new legislation is critical to ensuring that Pennsylvania has the resources it needs to get the offenders off the streets so that we can better protect potential future victims.”