Texas is far from perfect in gathering evidence of sexual assault. The imperfect system can pile on the misery for victims and lead to miscarriages of justice.
Under a bill presently advancing through the Texas Legislature, hospitals would be forced to provide improved treatment for victims of sexual assault.
In a 31-0 vote on May 1, 2013, the Senate approved SB 1191 by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth. Under the provisions of the bill nearly every hospital would be required to either provide the resources necessary to gather physical evidence of a crime or to provide a transfer of the alleged victim to a different hospital.
In March Texas lawmakers heard from a woman who drove to three different hospitals seeking to preserve the physical evidence. In the end her attacker went free.
The Star-Telegram reported: “Davis’ proposals represent significant progress. Just six years ago, the state did not even collect statistics on sexual assault.”
According to most recent figures available, the Department of Public Safety counted 19,011 victims in 2011.
Like a woman who gave evidence to lawmakers, who said she was raped by a co-worker, more than 17 percent of those who said they were raped described their attackers as a male “acquaintance.” Nearly 8 percent were raped by men they considered their boyfriends. CBS reported the U.S. Justice Department estimates two thirds of sexual assaults go unreported, and reporting doesn’t always lead to prosecution.
Under the bill a state agency would be mandated to keep a list of hospitals that perform the service.
Another bill progressing through the legislature would tackle the backlog in the testing of rape kits in Texas.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, would increase Justice Department grant resources for local agencies that carry out DNA evidence testing, North Texas Daily reported. It would help agencies “test and eliminate backlogged rape kits.”
A many as 20,000 cases in Texas have stalled due to untested evidence kits. It’s a state of affairs that fails to inspire confidence in the criminal justice system overall.