Texas State Rep. Victoria Neave agrees that citizens shouldn’t have to pass around a figurative hat to help rape victims get justice; footing the costly bill to test sexual assault kits should be the job of government, she says. Because the state and localities seldom allocate enough money to test kits as they come in, Neave hopes generous Texans will help, the Texas Tribune reports. A new law Neave authored will crowdfund rape kit testing statewide. The measure directs the Department of Public Safety to allow Texans to contribute to that cause when applying for and renewing driver’s licenses and personal identification certificates. Applications already ask whether folks want to donate $1 or more to other causes: veterans, the state’s organ and tissue registry and a blindness screening and treatment program. Beginning Jan. 1, applications will also allow donations to test sexual assault kits.
“There are women sitting for years sometimes waiting for justice,” said Neave. “A dollar can go a long way toward bringing someone peace.” Police gather such kits through hours-long, invasive exams of sexual assault victims, and they can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to analyze. Advocates say testing the kits is crucial to solving cases, finding serial rapists and acquitting the wrongfully accused. The crowdfunding law, coupled with a new two-year appropriation of $4.2 million, is the state’s latest effort to reduce a backlog of untested kits that swelled for years. Public safety officials reported a 20,000-kit backlog in August of that year. Lawmakers in 2013 spent $11 million addressing it. Through May of this year, the pre-2011 backlog still sat above 3,000, while thousands of new sexual assaults occur each year in Texas.