Bill to aid sexual assault victims approved

Legislators have approved a bill ensure a victim-centered approach to reporting sexual assaults, improve law enforcement handling of these crimes, and help legislators address a backlog of untested rape kits.

House Bill 31, introduced by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, passed unanimously on May 1.

The bill will provide a victim-centered approach by allowing two reporting options following the assault. An individual could report the crime to law enforcement following the assault, or have the evidence collected anonymously. Anonymous victim reporting does not require the victim to make contact with law enforcement or to report a crime in order to preserve time-sensitive evidence. They reserve the right to report the crime in the future when they have recovered from the emotional trauma.

Alaska law enforcement’s handling of sexual assault cases will improve by requiring law enforcement officers to have 12 hours of training on sexual assault response.

The bill also requires an annual audit of untested sexual assault kits and the progress on the work toward testing the backlog so that the Legislature can change policy or consider funding necessary to test every kit and prosecute all criminals.

The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature.