Texas House passes bill to tackle backlog of rape kits

The Texas House unanimously passed a bill that aims to tackle the state’s backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. House Bill 8 requires an audit of untested rape kits to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in the state.

Representative Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, introduced the bill in the lower chamber. The legislation also creates timelines for the submission, testing and analysis of all newly collected kits and prohibits law enforcement agencies from destroying rape kits related to an uncharged or unsolved case for 40 years.

Additionally, under the bill, the statute of limitations for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault doesn’t go into effect until the rape kit has been tested.

The legislation also requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide notice to victims 91 days before their kit is destroyed.

The bill is named after Lavinia Masters, who was raped at the age of 13 by a man who broke into her home in the middle of the night. Masters’ rape kit sat on a shelf untested for more than 20 years and once tested the 10-year statute of limitations had expired.

“Today, by unanimously passing the Lavinia Masters Act, House Bill 8, we sent a message to the women of Texas that their voices are being heard, we believe them, and the Texas House of Representatives is legislating justice,” Neave said in a news release.

Another bill aimed at helping sexual assault victims, HB 616 – which Neave introduced as well — also passed in the House on Tuesday. It allows health care facilities or individual sexual assault nurse examiners to apply for direct reimbursement for forensic sexual assault exams from the Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

The goal is to streamline the reimbursement process and allow for faster reimbursement for health care facilities, as well as fewer administrative burdens for law enforcement.