Could Texas Turn to Charity to Fund a Rape Kit Testing Backlog?

High cost is the primary reason thousands of rape kits remain untested. If the Legislature won’t provide the needed funds, one state representative thinks the public can help.

By Rhonda FanningMarch 14, 2017 1:40 pm, ,

For victims of sexual assault, collecting and testing a rape kit can mean the difference between solving a crime and allowing a perpetrator go free. In Texas, as in other states, rape kits are often collected but never tested because funds are not available. One lawmaker wants to give citizens the opportunity to contribute to a solution.

State Rep. Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) filed a bill to provide a way for Texans to donate to a rape kit testing fund. She says testing is expensive but necessary.

On the scope of the rape kit testing backlog:

“There are thousands of untested rape kits all across the state … and we know it would take millions of dollars. So our bill would create an entirely new revenue source … ranging from a dollar to any amount from the hearts and compassion of Texans across our state. ”

On why a bill is needed to raise funds:

“The way it would work is that when one goes to apply for, or renew a driver’s license, a commercial driver’s license, or to get a personal ID, there would be a box that they could check [to] donate a dollar or any amount. And that would go toward a … dedicated test account that would fund the testing of evidence in sexual assault cases.”

On how much such a donation program could raise:

“The Legislative Budget Board just came back with an analysis of our bill yesterday, and anticipates that our bill would raise over $1 million per year. There have been other similar voluntary donation programs that have generated $1.4 million in just one year alone.”

On whether this approach is an appropriate way to fund the testing of rape kits:

“I believe it’s the state’s responsibility and obligation to fully fund [rape kit testing], and if folks want to call members of the Appropriations Committee, that would certainly be helpful. In the meantime, the funds that are being allocated are not enough. Sexual assaults occur every single day. It’s a widespread problem, and we want to make sure what we [did] was to contribute and provide an additional revenue source to address the backlog of untested kits.”

On the likelihood of more ‘checkbox taxation’:

“This is an issue that is absolutely critical. It’s something that we want to make sure we focus attention on and so I get that there might be others interested in other issues but … when it deals with women and children … [and] others who have been victims of sexual assault, this is something that is an urgent issue. It’s a priority for me, for our district, for our state, and so we wanted to make sure to highlight this and do what we can to address the backlog.”