Illinois’ efforts to make sure sexual assault evidence is tested may serve as a national model. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution Wednesday about nationwide problems of rape kits going untested for years. While Illinois has laws mandating rape kits be tested quickly, Madigan said the first step is changing the “blame first” mentality of some prosecutors and police officers.
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“I’ve learned that too often, police avoid testing rape kits by unilaterally deciding not to pursue an investigation,” Madigan said. “In fact, at a recent summit I held on campus sexual assault, a police officer stated that he learned at the police academy that 80 percent of sexual assault allegations are false.”
Madigan said this only reinforces the idea that rape allegations won’t be taken seriously, which will lead to more assaults going unreported and more rapists getting away with their crimes.
While Madigan is encouraged states are passing laws to deal with the backlog of untested rape kits, estimated to be 400,000 nationally, she stressed that mandates alone aren’t enough. Along with those laws, she recommends implementing tracking systems to make sure police are sending kits to labs, and providing the money labs need to keep up with testing demands.