House Bill would extend time anonymous rape kits are stored

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Introduced by Representative Tim Reed from Brookings, House Bill 1074 would extend the time an anonymous rape kit would be kept before being destroyed-- moving the minimum time from one year, to 7 years OR until the victim is 25, whichever is later.

A sexual assault kit can be an important piece of evidence during an investigation.

"Swabs are done for any place that might have DNA evidence-- semen, blood-- things like that from potential assailants," said Anne Fisher, a Physician and Sexual Assault Team Medical Adviser. "It includes swabs of the vaginal area and genital area, as well as potentially bite marks, or other saliva, those sort of things. The victim's clothes are collected because there will frequently be evidence in their clothing."

The proposed legislation would impact the "Jane Doe Kits"-- kits from people who do not wish to come forward at that time. A sex crimes investigator thinks the extra time would be beneficial.

"Right now, the legislation says we have to hold onto those kits for up to one year to give the person one year to want to participate," said Sgt. Paul Stevens, a sex crimes investigator with the Pennington County Sheriff's Office. "However, the proposed legislation would make that seven years, which would be advantageous to victims."

Stevens said this victim-centric approach promotes awareness and gives power back to the victims.

KymBerlie Koster is a sexual assault survivor. She recently found the strength to confront her abuser and thinks that any step is a good step in giving victims more power. She said there is no timeline to healing.

"I think basically, it won't give us a timeline," said Koster. "You know, to be able to do this-- to not rush the healing process and to know that your options are still available to you. When you're ready to come forward, I mean, just to know that the evidence is still there for you."

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 1074 unanimously.