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Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul On Working To Create A System To Track Untested Rape Kits

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In Wisconsin, data on untested rape test kits is not collected or reported. Attorney General Josh Kaul's office is working to create a centralized system that would do both.

In 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, at the time lead by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, conducted a study and found that there were over 6,000 untested rape kits across the state.

According to current state Attorney General Democrat Josh Kaul, all untested kits from the 2014 report have now been tested. But without another full audit, he says there is currently no way to know how many rape kits have gone untested since then.

His office is now working on setting up a tracking system that will report out updated data on the status of kits and help connect victims with resources.

“What this system will do is it will allow survivors of sexual assault, any time they want to go online and learn where their kit is in the process, it will also give them contact information for law enforcement agencies so they’ll know who they can follow up with if they want further information and it will have information that allows people to connect with victim’s services,” explains Kaul.

This system is being funded through part of a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice aimed at helping the state reform how Wisconsin handles rape kits.

Under current state law, reporting information into the system would be 100% voluntary, but Kaul is hoping the state Legislature will change that.

“I’m confident that the vast majority of agencies around the state, or maybe all agencies around the state, will participate but we would also like to see legislation passed that makes this kit tracking system mandatory because then instead of asking and hoping that agencies participate, we’ll be able to ensure that every agency in the state is going to be part of this process,” he says.

During the Legislature’s last session, bills passed in the Senate that would require labs to test kits and make the kit tracking system mandatory, but both bills stalled in the Assembly. Similar bills, S.B. 71 and S.B. 94, have been introduced by the Senate with hopes they can get the governor’s desk this time.

S.B. 71 would require law enforcement to submit kits within 14 days, a measure that Kaul hopes would mean there wouldn’t be a backlog to track.

“That would make sure kits are getting submitted in a timely fashion and that there’s no backlog that could develop because agencies wouldn’t be allowed to keep the kits for longer than a few weeks,” he says.

But with or without action from the Legislation, Kaul says the tracking system will be set up and run by his office.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
Jack Hurbanis started as the WUWM Digital Intern in January 2020, transitioning to Assistant Digital Producer in July and Digital Producer in January 2021.