Guest Commentary: We Can Do More to Protect Women From Sex Assaults

February 7, 2013

McNULTY: Recent reports indicate that more than 60 percent of the men who have sexually assaulted women have done it more than once

Making sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent sexual assaults against women must be a top priority.  Likewise, we must make sure that we are doing everything we can to remove these predators from our neighborhoods so that they’re not stalking their next victim.

We have the opportunity to do both with House Bill 1020.

I drafted HB 1020 after a troubling “Call 7” investigation revealed that many local law enforcement agencies were not testing the evidence collected from women who had been sexually assaulted.  It was one of those questions I would have never thought to ask.  I, like everyone else, assumed incorrectly that every rape kit collected was tested.  Investigative reporter Keli Rabon of 7News showed otherwise.

Some maintain that not every kit submitted needs to be tested.  While I understand this from the perspective of allocating financial resources, I simply don’t agree.  We should be thorough in testing submitted rape kits and respecting the women who were assaulted.  Troubling is the fact that, in one case, only 26 percent of the rape kits that were collected were tested – leaving 74 percent untested.  In my opinion, that isn’t right.  That agency has since changed its policy and is testing more evidence collected.  We need other agencies to do the same.

As we visited with women who had been assaulted and had a rape kit collected but not tested, I was even more certain that we are morally obligated to move forward with an effective statewide standard.

It takes very real courage to come forward to report a sexual assault and even greater courage to go through the trauma of evidence being collected.  These women subjected themselves to the trauma of evidence collection so that their attacker would be brought to justice and so that other women wouldn’t become victims of their attacker.  If rape kits are not tested so that the evidence can be loaded into state and national databases, the opportunity to provide justice for other women who have been assaulted by these same predators is dismissed.

Recent reports indicate that more than 60 percent of the men who have sexually assaulted women have done it more than once, becoming serial rapists stalking new victims until they are taken off of the streets and put behind bars.  This is the key, we must put these criminals behind bars where they can no longer harm women and children.

Detroit faced 11,303 rape kits that had been collected but not tested.  After 153 of the 11,303 untested rape kits had been tested, twenty serial rapists were identified.

One-hundred and fifty three tests – twenty serial rapists.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of law enforcement agencies in Colorado have done a better job than Detroit, but of those with whom I’ve visited who are familiar with law enforcement in Colorado, every one of them indicated that we would prevent sexual assaults if we tested more rape kits.

Our focus must be on the women who have been assaulted.  We must make sure that these victims are receiving the treatment they need and the support that they deserve.  Respecting victims and preventing sexual assaults must be a priority for us.  We have the chance.  We must prioritize and pass HB 1020.

Rep. Frank McNulty was Speaker of the Colorado House for the 68th General Assembly.  He represents Highlands Ranch, Colorado

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