LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Murphy orders statewide survey of untested rape kits

BY Julie Daurio, Associate Producer |

A recent report from the state auditor found nearly half of rape kits collected over a four-year period in New Jersey went untested — and that most law enforcement agencies have no written policies on how to handle the kits.

On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill requiring the attorney general to conduct a survey to gather information about the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination, or SAFE kits, that are collected each year, including how many are tested — and why others are not.

“Survivors of rape and sexual assault deserve to know that their cases are treated with the utmost importance and diligence,” said Murphy. “The survey that this law mandates will provide us with a clear picture of how rape kits are logged, tracked, and stored in our state and guide decisions on potential future actions.”

Under the new law, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal will work with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault to develop a survey of kits in possession of law enforcement agencies that have not been submitted to a lab for testing.

In November, the Attorney General’s Office issued a directive to county law enforcement agencies requiring they adopt formal policies for handling rape kits. These procedures must be submitted to Grewal’s office by the end of the year.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Senate President Steve Sweeney, mandates Grewal summarize the findings of the survey and submit it to the governor and to the Legislature.

“We need to have a better understanding of why some of these kits go untested. The data gained may help us develop better ways to counsel rape or assault survivors about their options, to train medical and law enforcement personnel to deal more effectively with sexual assault survivors and ultimately bring to justice more sexual predators,” said Weinberg.