Texas Republicans are pushing yet another bathroom bill to “protect women.” Yet they still refuse to fund testing for rape kits that would send predators to jail.
Two other attempts at forcing people to use the bathroom for the gender they were assigned on their birth certificate have gone down in flames. Texas’ House passed a bathroom bill in May, but better heads prevailed in the Senate. Now, The Texas Tribune reports, they’re at it again. Despite 10 hours of heart-wrenching testimony from transgender Texans and their allies, a state Senate committee allowed the measure to proceed.
And this isn’t the only thing Texas Republicans care about more than rape kit testing and putting the men who assault women behind bars. In May, The Texas Tribune reported the House approved a bill that would make having sex with animals a felony. That’s right. Apparently, they care more about protecting their pets and their livestock from sexual assault than actual human women (and sometimes men).
As we reported back in May, Texas has a major backlog of over 29,000 untested rape kits — the highest in the nation.
The kits consist of microscope slides, plastic bags, and small boxes so a doctor or nurse can collect and store evidence for DNA testing. The samples of hair, saliva, semen, blood, and clothing fibers are then sent to law enforcement agencies where they’re supposed to get tested to confirm sexual assault occurred and to identify the rapist. DNA testing has been proven highly effective in solving crimes. Yet tens of thousands of these rape kits sit on shelves collecting dust, often for decades.
The process of collecting samples for a rape kit is both time-consuming and highly invasive for the rape victim. To put them through that and not even test the DNA samples to find a match is both cruel and negligent.
So why is this happening? Because Texas’ GOP-run state legislature refuses to provide the funding required to have these rape kits tested. In 2011, the state passed a law that requires rape kits to be tested within 30 days. Unfortunately, they only voted $11 million and the DNA testing costs from $500-$2,000 per kit. 3,600 kits remain untested and the new ones are piling up.
A bill that required testing within 60 days failed because GOP lawmakers whined about the “unfunded mandate” while refusing to change that by actually funding it. And despite the way Republicans claim they care about law and order, every backlogged rape kit represents another time a rapist is left free to sexually assault someone else.
KVUE reports the Texas Department of Public Safety unveiled some dismal statistics for the 7,357 rape kits collected in 2015 through May 2017.
- Just 5 percent got tested within 30 days.
- Just 10 percent got tested within 60 days
- Just 53 percent got tested within 90 days
The rest sit around for years or don’t get tested at all. Kristen Lenau from the Safe Alliance, a group that seeks to end the backlog, told KVUE, “Every single kit that’s sitting on a shelf is a person.” That’s right. For each untested rape kit, there’s a person who was raped and who had the courage to report it and submit to the grueling process of having the DNA evidence collected…And all for nothing.
Even if Texas Republicans cared about rape victims to provide the needed funds, there are only 18 labs in the entire state that can do the testing. There used to be 19 but KVUE reports the one in Austin got shut down due to staff “using the using the wrong methods to analyze DNA evidence, potentially jeopardizing thousands of criminal cases.”
That’s what happens when you live in a state run by people who reject science and who under-fund public education.
Democratic State Rep. Roland Guitierrez declared the untested rape kits are a huge problem.
“If one sexual assault kit goes untested, we have a problem. What does that say to the victim? I’m sorry but we didn’t test this rape kit. What does that say to them? I think, what it says is the state of Texas doesn’t give a damn. And that’s just a shame. Shame on us. We have to do better.”
When asked who’s to blame, Democratic State Rep. Victoria Neave answered, “I believe it’s the state legislature. We as legislators, when we look at the budget, to determine what the priorities are.” When asked about bills that would fund the DNA testing through donations via driver’s license renewals and vehicle registrations, Neave explained:
“While I think our state should be fully funding this issue, the fact of the matter is that it’s not. So we wanted to come up with another revenue source which can help pay for the kits.”
US News reports the measure passed, and experts estimate the program would bring in about $1 million a year.