Today, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law 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 passing this bill and Governor Baker for signing it. By mandating a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits and extending the time kits must be stored for to the duration of the statute of limitations, Massachusetts has just 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. Any failure to maintain a chain of custody on these kits is an unconscionable insult to survivors, and we have long advocated for the need of a systemized way of tracking these kits. Rape crisis centers like BARCC assist survivors with their questions about sexual assault evidence kits, and last year alone we accompanied more than 500 people from the Greater Boston area who required forensic exams to hospital emergency rooms. Additionally, the surviverape.org website managed by BARCC was visited by more than 1,200 people from Massachusetts last year. These visitors are seeking accurate information about forensic evidence collection related to sexual assault.
“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.
“These reforms are much welcomed. But the bill does not identify funding sources to ensure that resources are available to implement these reforms. The full system of response to and care of people who have experienced a sexual assault 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 if we do not also provide additional funding to additional resources to get this work done.”
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.