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Schmitt says ‘impressive progress’ made in tackling untested rape kits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Attorney General Eric Schmitt met with law enforcement officials, healthcare representatives, and advocates Tuesday to discuss progress made with efforts to tackle the testing of rape kits in the state.

Schmitt has made testing the more than 5,400 rape kits a priority of his tenure since he took office in January. He established the SAFE Kit Initiative earlier this year and is creating a statewide protocol for how these kits are handled.

At Tuesday’s quarterly meeting, the Attorney General’s Office announced it has collected information from untested kits from 79 percent of hospitals and 45 percent of law enforcement agencies in the state, “a significant amount of progress.”

“Launching the SAFE Kit Initiative and appointing Judge [M. Keithley] Williams was an important first step as we move forward in logging, tracking, and eventually testing untested sexual assault kits in Missouri,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Gathering these dedicated and knowledgeable individuals from across the state provides invaluable insight and discussion into the path forward with the SAFE Kit Initiative.”

“Today’s meeting addressed important concerns with the initiative and discussed the impressive progress that we’re making with this initiative,” he added. “I look forward to continuing to discuss the initiative with stakeholders across the state.”

Schmitt previously told The Missouri Times: “I think it’s just really important for us to honor the courage of the victims who have come forward to make sure those kits don’t sit on a shelf somewhere.”

Following the meeting, Jennifer Carter Dochler, the public policy director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said she’s “looking forward to” one day being able to have a “clear answer” when asked about untested sexual assault kits in the state.

“I’m grateful to be a stakeholder in this group and hope to continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable,” she said.

“Today’s meeting addressed the past, present, and future: how to best complete the inventory of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri, assuring that we’re compliant with Missouri state statutes moving forward, and implementing a tracking system so that the issue of a backlog will never happen again,” Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Schmitt’s office awarded dozens of medical centers around Missouri for being in compliance with the handling of rape kits. Distributed in March and April, 49 hospitals were given a “Healthcare Community Partner Award” for completing 100 percent of the inventory of untested sexual assault kits.