Idaho Lawmaker Raises Awareness About Rape Kit Legislation And Sexual Assault

Jun 30, 2017

Boise Democrat Melissa Wintrow sponsored legislation to make sure sexual assault investigations are carried out the same way across the state. There's been a backlog of "rape kits" holding up criminal proceedings across the country.
Credit Melissa Wintrow for Idaho / via Facebook

State Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, sponsored successful legislation the last two years to change how police in Idaho handle, process and store what are known as "rape kits." The kits are used by investigators to preserve evidence of a sexual assault.

Nationally, there’s been a backlog of kits that have gone untested – stalling criminal prosecutions.

“This is one of those crimes that basically is shrouded in victim blaming and shaming," says Wintrow. "And that’s why it goes so under-reported. And so it’s such a hard process to break the silence because if you’re not getting a good result in the system then more people won’t come forward.”

Wintrow says to combat the silence, she’s talked with police chiefs in Coeur d’Alene and Twin Falls this summer, and hopes to talk with more chiefs this fall. She says these police are interested in specific training for victims of sexual assault.
 
“The way that police officers have been trained historically to interview people is not necessarily the best way to interview a victim of assault because of the trauma that that person has been through.”

She says she’s encouraged by departments that are taking a “believe first” approach with victims, but says there’s a lot of work yet to do when it comes to changing cultural responses to sexual assault. 

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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