SEXUAL ASSAULT KIT TESTING
Spokane SART Foundation
Spokane Area NOW is dedicated to a safe and compassionate response for sexual assault survivors.
In Washington state, alone, there are an estimated 6,000 untested rape kits. While we are receiving $3M statewide to ease the backlog, it's only allowing for half of that money to go towards testing 2,100 rape kits. While the other half is going to go towards doing an extensive inventory.
For us, that's not enough!
We must ensure that there is a "test all" policy, that the 24 hour evidence collection limitations are eased, that there are SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) in every hospital or on call at all times, and that survivors of sexual assault have access to these nurses regardless of rural, suburban or urban locations.
Spokane NOW has partnered with the Spokane SART Foundation to present a panel discussion on the topic of "Community Solutions to Address Sexual Assault."
January 16, 2019 at 6:30pm
Downtown Spokane Public Library
As the #metoo movement began to pick up steam, an article was published in The Pacific Northwest Inlander on Thu., November 2nd outlining Spokane City Council District 1 candidate Kate Burke's experiences with sexual harassment with local community leaders and elected officials. In response to the article, Spokane Area NOW organized a group of community members and leaders to speak at the City Council open forum on Mon., November 6th. We heard many impassioned pleas for the City Council to take sexual harassment and assault seriously. Our President Autumn Reed made a speech that night. Along with accountability, Autumn also asked for assistance in eliminating the sexual assault kit backlog which NOW understood to be almost 1,000 kits.
On Wed., November 15th, Spokane Area NOW held a postcard event where we invited the public to join us in writing postcards to our city and state representatives to help us eradicate the sexual assault kit backlog here in Spokane, Spokane County, and Spokane Valley. There were about 50 - 60 people who showed up to join us. We provided the postcards and almost $200.00 was donated for stamps to send them. At one point, the entire cafe (except for staff) was writing postcards. Even people who walked in off the streets were curious about what was happening and offered to write postcards as well. All told, Spokane wrote and mailed over 700 postcards! There was a huge outpouring of support and we showed up!
On Tue., November 28th, Autumn made another plea to the Spokane Human Rights Commission to help us hold our leaders and community members accountable. She was told that there will be a special City Council meeting to address sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in January (date to be announced). It also happened to be her birthday :)
On Wed., December 6th, Autumn and NOW member Kevin Egan met with City Council President Ben Stuckart, City Council Member Lori Kinnear, Spokane Police Department Chief Craig Meidl, Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren, Major Eric Olsen (Investigative Bureau) and Sergeant Michael McNab (Special Victims Unit) to discover the true nature of the backlog and what we could do to eliminate it. In that meeting, we learned that 107 tests have already been sent and the Washington State Forensic Crime Lab had requested approximately 70 more tests. What we discovered is that the SPD is ready and willing to send kits but unfortunately, the bottleneck is at the lab.
It’s abundantly obvious that a lot of our actions need be at the state level. We need to be working in Olympia to see what we can do to change the hearts and minds of our elected representatives to create better state budgets in order to mitigate not only the sexual assault kit backlog but the other issues highlighted in their meeting: mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, etc. which are all symptomatic of underfunded social safety nets. We need to ensure that the lab techs working in Washington state make a comparable salary to other states who may coax them away for more money.
In addition, because of the very stringent public records laws in Washington state, survivors are made to fill out applications with the Office of the Secretary of State in order to remain anonymous on their report. If a survivor goes through the process without an advocate, they may not be aware of this small but alienable detail. We'd like to investigate some sort of legislation that would change this for survivors so they have one less thing about which to worry.