Wendy Davis touts legislative efforts to address untested rape kits

Sen. Wendy Davis, joined by Rape Crisis Center executive director Miriam Elizondo on the left and rape survivor Patricia Stich-Langford on the right, visited San Antonio today to talk about her efforts to address backlog of untested rape kits. Photo by Alexa Garcia-Ditta

At a campaign stop in San Antonio today, Democratic candidate for Texas governor Wendy Davis visited the Rape Crisis Center to highlight her legislative track record of addressing a significant statewide backlog of untested rape kits. During the 2011 and 2013 Texas legislative sessions, she wrote or co-authored a series of bills that catalogued the tens of thousands of untested kits collecting dust on law enforcement shelves, secured funding for their processing, and required hospital emergency rooms to perform forensic sexual assault exams.

"The three laws I authored and passed are important not only because they make way for justice in past and present cases, but also because they help to prevent future assaults," she said, flanked by the Rape Crisis Center's Miriam Elizondo and rape survivor Patricia Stich-Langford. "These laws are meant to bring an end to serial rape and prosecute and jail rapists so that they cannot rape again."

Timothy Fallon, Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory director, said that since the passage of the first bill in 2011, San Antonio law enforcement sends evidence directly to the crime lab, which processes that evidence within 30 days of receiving it.

"Cases that were being held for whatever reason they were being held come to us," he said, adding that the lab in San Antonio is currently processing three kits this week. "The amount of evidence has gone up" by about 40 percent, he said.

Davis is traveling throughout the state this week after releasing her campaign's first statewide ad attacking her opponent Greg Abbott's decision as a Texas Supreme Court justice to rule on the side of a company and against a rape survivor's request for damages. The ad highlights a 1993 story of a Seguin woman who had been raped by a door-to-door vacuum salesman and calls Abbott out for his dissenting opinion, which political gurus have called "bold" and "risky," especially after learning over the weekend that the Davis campaign did not in fact speak with the woman before releasing the video. Instead, Davis told reporters earlier this week that another organization called the Lone Star Project spoke with the Seguin woman several months ago. Davis said today her team commends the woman for sharing her story but that the campaign has not made any additional attempts to contact her.

"We...felt comfortable moving forward because she herself had been very brave when she was going through that (Texas) Supreme Court case," Davis said. "She gave her full name and came forward in a very visible way, and at the time she said she was doing it to offer an example of courage that other women needed to see."

Rape survivors have joined Davis on her roadshow throughout the week sharing their personal stories. Stich-Langford, who introduced Davis, shared today that she was raped by a serial rapist in 1989 and thanked Davis for her legislative efforts to test rape kits and process evidence quickly.

"Sen. Wendy Davis understands the stakes," Langford said. "I cannot say the same for Greg Abbott. When I saw the ad, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that an elected officer would side against his colleagues and against common sense to try to restrict the rights of a rape survivors."

Abbott's campaign has called the ad "despicable," while Davis called Abbott's Supreme Court opinion (which you can read in full here), the "most heinous betrayal" yet.

Read the full text of Davis' bills here: Senate Bill 1636 to catalogue the number of rape kits languishing in storage rooms; Senate Bill 1191 that requires hospital emergency rooms be equipped to perform forensic exams, and Senate Bill 1192, which calls for law enforcement to notify rape and assault survivors when their kits are being processed.



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