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Del. Hettleman Responds to Article on Rape Kits

Military medical professionals learn how to use the sexual assault test kit. Wikipedia photo

Thank you for bringing attention to the important issues around the handling of rape kits in the May 7 article, “Thousands of Rape Kits Untested.” I want to clarify a few important matters.

First, the $3.5 million to assist law enforcement with the increased testing anticipated from HB 1096/SB 767 was fenced off in the 2020 budget. We have high hopes that the Governor will allow this funding to be used for testing, but the decision to release these funds rests with him, not with the enactment of legislation.

Second, HB 1268/SB 569 (which has not yet been signed into law) creates a rape kit testing funding framework through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and will direct the $3.5 million to those law enforcement agencies that have the most kits to test. The $3.5 million is to supplement, not supplant, already existing funding that supports testing, and is meant to be forward-directed, to the increased number of kits required to be tested under HB 1096, which was recently signed into law.

The new law will substantially expand the universe of kits to be tested, but to say that “all” kits should be tested is too simplistic – I think we could all agree that the kits of survivors who have not provided their permission, for example, shouldn’t be tested.

We are hopeful that these legislative efforts will provide survivors with the consistency, respect and consideration they deserve as these difficult crimes make their way through our criminal justice system.

— Shelly L. Hettleman

The writer, a Democrat, represents Baltimore County’s 11th District in the House of Delegates. She was the lead House sponsor of HB 1268 and HB 1096.