SACRAMENTO – In a resounding show of support for survivors of rape and sexual assault, the California State Assembly passed legislation earlier today authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will require law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to promptly analyze and test all newly collected rape kit evidence in California.
Sponsored jointly by the Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project, SB 22—which passed from the Legislature without a single ‘No’ vote—follows federal best practices and ensures that survivors reporting sexual assault across California will have equal access to the swift submission and analysis of forensic evidence associated with their cases. The legislation will require newly collected rape kits to be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt, preventing the development of rape kit backlogs in evidence rooms or laboratories. The prompt testing of DNA evidence in rape kits can help identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
“Survivors should never have to wait years or even decades for their rape kits to be tested and it is outrageous that collected evidence could ever sit on a shelf untested,” Senator Leyva said. “After a survivor has already endured a thorough and invasive rape kit exam, it is critical that we promptly test those kits to uncover potentially crucial evidence that can help ensure justice and put rapists behind bars. Now that SB 22 is heading to the Governor’s desk, California stands on the verge of making history by standing alongside rape survivors and making sure that we hold rapists accountable. I thank my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle for sending a clear message that all rape kits can and must be tested promptly and am hopeful that Governor Newsom will also stand with survivors seeking justice.”
Currently serving as Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016, to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017, and to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination in California (SB 820).
The bill sponsors have worked diligently at every step of the process to help ensure passage of SB 22 from the Legislature. Here is what they have stated regarding this important legislation and issue:
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley:
“When sexual assault kits sit untested, survivors are denied justice and perpetrators go undetected. I am truly grateful to Senator Leyva and our other partners for their tireless effort to enact this significant law requiring timely testing of every kit. We must do all we can to ensure that California protects survivors of sexual assault and identifies those who commit sexual violence.”
Joyful Heart Foundation Director of Policy & Advocacy Ilse Knecht:
“SB 22 addresses weaknesses in existing state law that have allowed dangerous perpetrators to remain on the streets. Testing all rape kits connected to reported crimes means justice for survivors, accountability for serial predators, and safer communities for all. We can and must do better. Joyful Heart stands with every survivor who takes the step of reporting the crime to the police and endures an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the perpetrator. We are as determined as ever to work with Senator Leyva and California’s legislators to bring this badly needed reform to the state.”
Natasha’s Justice Project Founder Natasha Alexenko:
“Senate Bill 22 is vital for survivors like myself who wait years and even decades for justice. I am moved beyond words by the unwavering dedication demonstrated by Senator Leyva, her team and the sponsors of this legislation. It’s time to tell survivors of sexual assault across California, you matter.”