Pennsylvania Legislators Hold Joint Hearing to Address Rape Kit Tracking System

Policy-HearingImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

PHOENIXVILLE, PA — On Friday, State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery) chaired a joint public hearing with state Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) to focus on the need for a statewide rape kit tracking system in Pennsylvania.

The hearing, which took place at the Upper Providence Township Building in Phoenixville, featured three panels of testimony from members of law enforcement, victim advocates, and survivors of sexual assault.

“If the elected officials are serious about empowering survivors, increasing transparency, making our communities safer and fighting for justice, we must establish, implement, and enforce the use of a statewide rape kit tracking system,” Muth said.

In her opening remarks, Muth noted that Pennsylvania is one of only 12 states that does not have a rape kit tracking system in place. She highlighted the importance of establishing such a system, citing it as a key step in the fight to empower survivors and ensure justice is served.

Senator Muth is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 860 which would create a statewide rape kit tracking system to provide sexual assault survivors with access to timely information and status updates regarding evidence in their cases – such as where it is currently located, when it was submitted, and who to contact for help and more information.

House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton introduced companion legislation, House Bill 1848, in the House. The bills would also develop an advisory committee made up of the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania’s Office of Attorney General and other stakeholders to come up with best practices for creating and maintaining the tracking system.

“Victims in Pennsylvania deserve accountability and it is our job as lawmakers to help give it to them. A statewide rape kit tracking system will help survivors move towards justice in an effective and transparent way. More than 30 states have adopted or are in the process of implementing the rape kit tracking system, the time is now for Pennsylvania; time to step forward,” Rep. Cephas added. “I am thankful to Leader Joanna McClinton, for her fierce determination to guide our efforts in the direction of fairness and compassion for victims across the Commonwealth.”

Both Senate Bill 860 and House Bill 1848 are currently in the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

“We know this legislation will enable Pennsylvania to continue making important strides in expanding the rights, options, and safety of sexual assault victims. It will also enable Pennsylvania to prevent and address any backlogs in evidence, which can open pathways for justice and accountability while also enhancing the safety of the Commonwealth’s communities,” Donna Greco, Policy Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, testified. “A statewide tracking system is a national best practice and the next step for Pennsylvania. We commend Senator Muth and Leader McClinton for their leadership on this issue.”

In July 2022, Governor Wolf signed into law, House Bill 2032, now Act 70 of 2022, which directs the Pennsylvania State Police to identify the specific resources that are needed to establish a statewide tracking system and to produce a report of their findings to the legislature within 12 months.

Other testifiers at the hearing included Laquisha Anthony, survivor and advocacy coordinator at Woman Organized Against Rape (WOAR) Philadelphia; Debra Calhoun, Director, Pennsylvania State Police Scientific Services Division; Sgt. James Holstein, Pennsylvania State Police; Kevin Steele, Montgomery County District Attorney; and Mary Onama, Director, Montgomery County Rape Crisis Center.

Participating legislators joining Sen. Muth and Rep. Cephas both in-person and on Zoom included Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny), Senator Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery), Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester), and Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery).

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