Recent, alarming news coverage of the rape kit testing backlog problem here in Florida shines a much-needed light on the overall issue of identifying and prosecuting sexual predators — and we need to remember that this is an issue of child safety as well as adult safety.
In a country where nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults occur to children age 17 and under (according to the National Children’s Advocacy Center), the urgency for prompt, thorough police work to identify and allow prosecution of predators cannot be overstated.
As 13,000 rape kits sit untested in our state, we are not only allowing rapists to walk free, without being held accountable for past assaults but also enabling them to commit sexual offenses today, tomorrow and for years to come.
Untested kits equal unidentified predators and NO ONE should feel safe, comfortable or OK with this fact … except perhaps predators themselves.
The Florida-based nonprofit organization, Lauren’s Kids, is advocating for specific Florida legislation in 2016 to improve our state’s ability to identify and prosecute sexual predators. We urge all Florida voters to contact their representatives in Tallahassee now and push for passage of these four pieces of proposed legislation aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of sexual assault investigations:
– HB 167 and SB 368 require increased accountability and timeliness for law enforcement agencies related to testing of rape kits, including the adoption of a 12-month maximum period for evidence processing
– HB 179 and SB 636 standardize DNA testing procedures, including provisions stating evidence processing, must begin within 30 days of a request, and ensuring that victims, the Governor’s Office and the Legislature are kept informed of testing data and results.
Legislative advocacy is one of many ways that Floridians can help end the cycle of child sexual abuse, sexual violence as a whole, and be successful in prosecuting predators. Education toward prevention and early identification of abuse is just as vital.
Please visit www.LaurensKids.org to learn more.
Lauren Book is the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids.