WJI issued a statement today on Attorney General Brad Schimel's policies on testing rape kits and other crime evidence. The statement is below.
Attorney General Brad Schimel must more clearly explain his policies on testing rape kits and evidence from other crimes, the Wisconsin Justice Initiative said Friday.
Schimel this week announced a “By Your Side” campaign that asks sexual assault victims to come forward if they believed their kit was not tested. The state has tested just nine of its backlog of 6,000 rape kits.
“What happens when the victim is a child?” WJI Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said. “Are those cases treated differently than those involving adult victims?”
Too many sexual assaults of minors involve family members or trusted friends of the family, Schuldt said, the very people most able to discourage victims from having the kits tested.
Schimel’s announced policy of testing rape kits only with the victims’ consent is dangerous because it reduces law enforcement’s chances of catching repeat offenders by linking evidence to multiple offenses, Schuldt said.
Schimel is not even contacting victims directly to find out if they want to have their kits tested. Instead, he is relying on individual victims, who probably don’t know the status of their test kits, to contact his office to ask to have their kits processed.
“He is putting almost the entire burden on the victim,” Schuldt said. “Schimel is making less than than minimal effort. He really should take catching serial rapists more seriously.”
Schimel should also explain whether he is treating victims of all crimes equally, Schuldt said.
“Is Schimel not processing evidence in any case where a victim might be traumatized?” she asked. “Can a the victim of an attempted carjacking block the processing of fingerprints taken from her car’s steering wheel? Can an attempted murder victim deny access to the bullets a surgeon digs out of his body? Can the owner of a store that was robbed refuse to let police process a bullet casing?”
If Schimel is treating sexual assault evidence any differently than other crimes, he needs to explain why, Schuldt said.
“We need to know that he isn’t just singling out for inaction crimes where victims are, by far, women,” she said.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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