State Reps. aim to create a statewide system to ’empower victims of rape and sexual assault’ | Monday Morning Coffee

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Good Monday Morning, all

Associate Editor Cassie Miller here, filling in for John today.

I trust you all are well-rested and ready for the week ahead because, as always, news abounds.

On Friday, state Reps. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne and Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, announced that they would co-sponsor a bill to create a statewide system for tracking rape kits. 

This legislation, if introduced, could prove significant, as Pennsylvania has historically struggled to keep up with the backlog of untested rape kits.

In 2016, a report from the Department of Health found more than 3,000 backlogged rape kits statewide, leading to a special report from Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. 

In his report, DePasquale said that “communication failures, bureaucratic breakdowns and resource shortages” resulted in an inaccurate count of the state’s backlogged tests and led to some kits remaining untested since the 1990s.

Pa.’s rape kit backlog sees a sharp reduction | The Numbers Racket

In May, DePasquale reported that the state has seen a 97 percent decrease in the backlog, but Toohil and McClinton’s legislation might be key to making sure that a significant backlog doesn’t happen again.

In a House memorandum announcing their co-sponsorship, Toohil and McClinton said a statewide system for tracking rape kits would help law enforcement and victims.

“…  victims of sexual assault continue to call the network of rape crisis centers that make up PCAR’s Coalition, asking where their evidence is, whether it has been submitted for testing, and whether or not their case will be prosecuted. After surviving the violent crime of rape and going through a forensic medical exam to gather evidence victims deserve the right to access information concerning that evidence in a timely manner. Yet victim notification procedures vary from county to county and victims continue to struggle to access status updates related to their kits.

… Pennsylvania has an opportunity to continue to be a leader for the nation when it comes to our Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act. A number of other states have begun passing legislation that creates a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Carolina, and Idaho. In fact, Idaho State Police developed a tracking system that is available at no cost to other states and is considered a model other states can adapt for their residents.”

Our Stuff.

NEPA Correspondent Patrick Abdalla tells the real story of Scranton. 

As schools across the state prepare to reopen, mental health concerns loomElizabeth Hardison reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Trump doubles down on Social Security and Medicare. And, Rick Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association explores what it will take to reopen schools safely. 

En la Estrella-CapitalEl Farm Show del 2021 será virtual, dice el secretario de Agricultura, ReddingEn medio de la pandemia, Wolf firma la 11ª renovación de la declaración del desastre de opioides

Elsewhere.
With Philly schools headed virtual this year, the Inquirer asks,’ what about school bus drivers?’
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto moves officers after clashes with protesters, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive reports that as classes are set to resume, nearly 200 PSU students have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Citizens-Voice looks at contact-tracing efforts in Wilkes-Barre.
GoErie.com reports, area coaches are cautiously optimistic after PIAA decision.
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

GOP Super PAC Links Finello to Pelosi in Attack Ad in race for Pa. 1, according to PoliticsPA. 

Trump calls out FDA chief, suggests agency is slow-walking Covid clinical trials, Politico reports. 

From Stateline.org: How Misinformation, Federalism and Selfishness Hampered America’s Virus Response

And now you’re up to date.

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.