This week, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to pass An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, which aims to create a more equitable system of criminal justice while also increasing public safety by implementing sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system. These reforms include changes to the state’s system for handling sexual assault evidence kits. Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) Executive Director Gina Scaramella released the following statement in response:
“We applaud the Massachusetts Legislature for taking this important step forward. By mandating a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits and extending the time that the state must store untested kits from 15 to 50 years, Massachusetts has become a leader in the nation with survivor-centered policies regarding the tracking and storage of sexual assault evidence kits.
“A sexual assault forensic exam takes at least several hours and is a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. Failing to maintain a chain of custody on these kits is an unconscionable insult to survivors, and a systemized way of tracking these kits is urgently needed. Last year alone, more than 1,200 people from Massachusetts visited the surviverape.org website in search of information, and we accompanied more than 500 people from the Greater Boston area who required forensic exams to hospital emergency rooms. We also assisted 90 survivors in both understanding the system in our state and in tracking down the status of their sexual assault forensic kits.
“The new bill also calls for an annual report to be submitted to the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security disclosing the total number of forensic kits collected or received that year, the date on which the evidence was collected, and the current status of the evidence kit, among several other provisions. This information will only add to our understanding of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in Massachusetts.
“Despite these reforms, the bill does not identify funding sources to ensure that resources are available to implement these reforms. The full system of care includes the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, rape crisis centers, Children’s Advocacy Centers, the Boston and state crime labs, and police and prosecutors offices. The system has historically been underfunded, and we risk undermining the intent of these much-needed reforms, which will require additional resources to fulfill, without additional funding.”
About the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)
Founded in 1973, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center has a mission to end sexual violence through healing and social change. BARCC provides free, confidential support and services to all survivors of sexual violence ages 12 and up and their families and friends throughout Greater Boston. It works with survivors regardless of when the assault occurred, and its goal is to empower survivors to heal and seek justice. BARCC also works with a wide range of organizations and communities, including schools, colleges, and police, to advocate for change. It provides training in how to respond to survivors and create cultures that prevent sexual violence in the first place. Follow BARCC on social media: Twitter @barcc; Instagram @barccofficial; Facebook /barcc.org.