SB 22 Helps Ensure Justice for Survivors and Hold Rapists Accountable
SACRAMENTO – With unanimous support, the Senate Public Safety Committee today passed important legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) requiring that law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories promptly analyze and test all newly collected rape kit evidence in California.
Following federal best practices, SB 22 ensures that sexual assault victims in California will have access to the swift submission and analysis of forensic evidence associated with their cases. Under the requirements of the proposal, newly collected rape kits must be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt. Promptly testing DNA evidence in rape kits will prevent backlogs of forensic evidence in laboratories or evidence rooms and can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
“It is unconscionable that collected rape kits could ever sit on a shelf untested, particularly after a rape survivor has already undergone an exhaustive rape kit exam in an effort to help catch their attacker,” Senator Leyva said. “SB 22 will help to uncover potentially critical evidence that can help ensure justice and put rapists behind bars where they belong. I appreciate the support of my colleagues on the Senate Public Safety Committee for approving this important bill today and am hopeful that it will earn similar support in the weeks and months to come.”
SB 22 is jointly sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation, and Natasha’s Justice Project.
“When sexual assault kits sit untested, survivors are denied justice and perpetrators go undetected. I am truly grateful to Senator Leyva and our other partners for their tireless effort to enact this significant law requiring timely testing of every kit. We must do all we can to ensure that California protects survivors of sexual assault and identifies those who commit sexual violence,” stated District Attorney O’Malley.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, has remained committed to ensuring passage of this important legislation that will help sexual assault survivors in California.
“SB 22 addresses weaknesses in existing state law that have allowed dangerous perpetrators to remain on the streets. Testing all rape kits connected to reported crimes means justice for survivors, accountability for serial predators, and safer communities for all. We can and must do better. Joyful Heart stands with every survivor who takes the step of reporting the crime to the police and endures an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the perpetrator. We are as determined as ever to work with Senator Leyva and California’s legislators to bring this badly needed reform to the state,” said Joyful Heart Foundation Director of Policy & Advocacy Ilse Knecht.
Senator Leyva is also pleased to have Natasha’s Justice Project, a national organization committed to ending the rape kit backlog, in strong support of SB 22.
“Senate Bill 22 is vital for survivors like myself who wait years and even decades for justice. I am moved beyond words by the unwavering dedication demonstrated by Senator Leyva, her team and the sponsors of this legislation. It’s time to tell survivors of sexual assault across California, you matter,” noted Natasha’s Justice Project Founder Natasha Alexenko.
Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016, to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017, and to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination in California (SB 820).
Supported by Change for Justice, Los Angeles Indivisible, National Association of Social Workers / California Chapter, Riverside Sheriffs’ Association and Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, SB 22 will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee later this spring.