House approves Orwall bill to clear untested rape kit backlog

OLYMPIA – House lawmakers voted unanimously to pass legislation (HB 1166) addressing the backlog of over 8,000 rape kits in police custody on Wednesday evening.

“Our state has been moving in the right direction to support survivors, but we are still behind other states, like Oregon and Ohio, on clearing our backlog,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines). “This bill is about lifting up the voices of survivors and providing law enforcement with the tools they need to finally hold these violent predators accountable.”

Throughout her tenure at the Legislature, Orwall has championed bills supporting survivors of sexual violence. In 2015, the Legislature passed her measure mandating testing of all current and backlogged rape kits, some of which had been sitting in evidence untested for over two decades.

Under her leadership, Washington became the first state in the nation to create an online statewide tracking system for survivors to check testing status of kits in 2016.

“I’m grateful for today’s passing of House Bill 1166. This bill should be the priority of this legislative session – along with an apology from the state of Washington for the 8,000-plus untested rape kits,” stated Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-Yakima) who co-sponsored the legislation. “Victims need justice, and those committing these horrific crimes need to know we will be doing all we can to keep all Washingtonians safe. I’m so thankful to serve next to the Honorable Tina Orwall on this important journey.”

The 2019 legislation creates a Survivor Bill of Rights, requires law enforcement undergo specialized trauma informed training and prohibits the destruction of untested rape kits.

Under the Bill of Rights, survivors would no longer have to provide monetary compensation to hospitals for testing of their own rape kits.

HB 1166 will now move to the Senate for consideration.