A brand new law in Iowa requires police to hang on to “rape kits” for at least 10 years. Karla Miller, director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program in Iowa City, says protecting the kit, which contains evidence of a sexual assault, is important. Miller says recently in Iowa City a rape kit was reexamined using D-N-A technology that wasn’t available at the time of the crime, and prosectors were able to try the case. Marti Anderson, director of the state’s Crime Victim Assistance program, says the rape exam is best done within 12 hours of an assault. Anderson says a rape victim who’s likely traumatized, frightened and maybe exhausted after an assault must endure a three- to four-hour evidentiary exam, and the decision about whether to call in law enforcement after the exam’s over can be pretty difficult. Anderson says the victim may not have contacted their family and friends yet, and you don’t want to force someone in that state of mind to set the wheels of justice in motion when their support system isn’t mobilized. Anderson says a woman who waits a while to get her emotions in order can be harmed a second time if they discover the rape kit has been thrown away. Anderson says it would be “highly victimizing.” And Anderson says the prosecutor would be “unhappy,” too. The new requirement for keeping rape kits for at least 10 years was approved by the House and Senate and the Governor signed the bill into law this morning, but it was Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson who spoke to the assembled crowd.Pederson says unfortunately, by the time some victims decide to press charges, the evidence collected has been destroyed. While some police departments keep the kits indefinitely, some hospitals keep the kits for just 30 days and then dispose of them if they aren’t collected by police. The state’s crime victim assistance program pays the three-hundred-30 dollars for the exam that collects the evidence preserved in the “rape kits.” Last year, 15-hundred “rape kits” were collected in Iowa. Pederson says the kits are relatively small and do not require refrigeration, so it should be easy for police departments to keep the kits around.
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