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WA Continues Work to Improve Sexual Assault Response

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Washington state lawmakers are continuing their work from past sessions supporting survivors of sexual assault.

House Bill 1109, which has been delivered to the governor’s desk, contains a number of measures to improve investigations into these crimes and track the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits.

Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, said the bill requires law enforcement to provide status updates for kits, which is especially important if there is a DNA match in the FBI’s tracking system.

White boxes and brown bags fill metal shelves. The boxes and bags contain sexual assault kits and evidence waiting to be tested.
Untested Sexual Assault Kits waiting to be processed at the WSP lab. | WSP

Orwall stressed serial offenders are responsible for many assaults.

“So it’s really important not only that we’re testing, but we’re really following up to identify some very dangerous offenders that have been in our community for some time,” Orwall explained.

Reforms in sex crimes law are a bipartisan effort in the Evergreen State. Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, has been Orwall’s partner on the effort over the past few sessions. Orwall pointed out testing of the backlog of sexual assault kits should be complete by mid-2022.

April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month, learn more:

Orwall added the bill will also review officers’ interactions with survivors. The reviews will help the state improve sexual assault training for officers.

Orwall contended the training needs tweaking. For instance, helping officers with their wording when they speak to survivors is important. She noted one charged word is “alleged.”

“That is a word that’s often used but also can make maybe a survivor feel like they’re not believed, or they’re being questioned and so it could be something as simple as a word,” Orwall observed.

The bill also helps survivors navigate the legal system with help from advocates. But Orwall emphasized the state’s work isn’t over, and hopes to build on these reforms next session.

“I do think a next step is to apologize to survivors after all the sexual assaults have been tested, let them know that the system’s been fixed and where they can get the resources they need,” Orwall urged.

Resources:

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and needs assistance, contact the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center:

888-99-VOICE
888-998-6423 24-HOUR RESOURCE LINE
https://www.kcsarc.org/

or

The National Sexual Assault Hotline:
1-800-656-4673

The above article was provided by the Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.

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