Sexual assault kits

Jeff Carl, director of the emergency department, holds a sexual assault kit Jan. 26, 2018, at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. Each kit is sealed to prevent tampering.

BOISE — Another bill aimed at improving the sexual assault kit collection process in Idaho is headed to the House floor.

House Bill 266, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, passed through the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee on Wednesday and will now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

The bill would clarify that when an adult victim chooses to undergo an anonymous forensic sexual assault exam at a hospital, hospital staff is not required to report the injury to the police.

HB 266 follows another bill from Wintrow this session — crafted with the help of Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury — that would require that all collected kits be processed, with the exception of cases where there is evidence that the assault claim was unfounded.

That bill, HB 116, also contains an exemption for situations where the victim requests the kit be collected anonymously, in accordance with the federal Violence Against Women Act.

The new bill from Wintrow, to clarify that hospital staff are not required to report injuries in anonymous sexual assault exams to the police, could encourage more victims — particularly those who aren’t ready to talk to the police right away — to undergo forensic sexual assault exams.

“We have a process to [collect kits anonymously] because sometimes when a victim has been sexually assaulted they’re a bit traumatized and they’re not sure what to do,” Wintrow said.

Anonymous kits are stored for 10 years, during which victims can come forward to claim their kits and report their assault to the police at any time. Anonymous victims are assigned a tracking number for their kit, which allows the victim to trace the kit and helps law enforcement connect victims to their kits if they choose to come forward.

The bill passed through the committee unanimously, with support from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

“I think the collection of the rape kits is a really, really important thing,” said Rep. Christy Zito, a Republican from Hammett.

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