Good news for sexual assault survivors in Missouri is now just one signature away.
State lawmakers this week passed a bill that requires all licensed hospitals to provide rape kits to victims by 2023. Too few hospitals in the state currently have staff certified to gather DNA samplings and other evidence of sexual assault through rape kits, which can be used by law enforcement and prosecutors to catch and convict rapists, the Associated Press reported.
Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp rightly said that this measure will no longer force victims of sexual assault to drive long distances looking for a hospital that can offer them a rape kit.
“Survivors of sexual assault deserve justice, care and comfort,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many Missouri hospitals do not have the resources needed to properly respond to these traumatic situations.”
There are many other good components in the bill, including:
• Providing access to virtual and in-person training for hospital staff on how to complete a rape kit.
• Enacting a “Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights” that says victims don't have to pay for rape kits and can get a free shower after an exam.
• Requiring the state to create a central storage center for unreported rape kits and requiring those kits to be stored for at least five years. Missouri has been cataloging and counting its backlogged rape kits and has announced plans to test them as funding allows.
The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.
Getting this bill enacted as state law would give some peace of mind to those who experience sexual assault. They would know that their local hospital would eventually be able to provide them the care and investigation they need, should they choose to have a rape kit conducted. Some of their rights would be enshrined in statute.
And the law would continue to publicize and prioritize the ongoing need to clear the backlog of untested rape kits across the state.
This bill sends the right message to survivors, and Parson should sign it immediately.