An Idaho sheriff claimed the state's lawmakers should not have approved a statewide rape kit system, saying the kits are unnecessary because the majority of rape claims are false.
The system, if signed into law by the governor, would require Idaho clinics to use rape kits to collect evidence after a claim of sexual assault and then send the kits for DNA testing, The Associated Press reports. The DNA evidence would be compared with a nationwide database.
A rape kit is a set of checklists and tools for collecting evidence after a suspected rape -- it generally includes swabs, materials for blood samples and forms for documentation, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland said that because he believes most rape claims his police force receives are false, the decision to test a rape kit should be left up to police officers. This is the current system.
"The majority of our rapes -- not to say that we don't have rapes, we do -- but the majority of our rapes that are called in are actually consensual sex," Rowland told a TV station in Idaho Falls, reports AP.
Ilse Knecht, policy and advocacy director for the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization that provides a support network for survivors of sexual assault, disagreed with Rowland's comments.
"It's hard to know if a claim is false if the kits don't get tested. Each one of these kits represents a survivor ... We need to take their claim seriously, treat them with respect and use the evidence," said Knecht.
According to RAINN's website, rape kits can increase the likelihood of prosecuting a victim's assailant, as well as giving a sexual assault victims time to consider whether they want to report an assault, preserving the DNA evidence in case they do.
Democratic Rep. Melissa Wintrow of Idaho, the lawmaker who introduced the bill, said the sheriff's comments on rape kits were harmful and stressed the need for education on sexual assault, pointing out that only 33 percent of rape victims report their attacks, according to the FBI.
"Many times people are focused on a woman's behavior, and the victim's response," said Wintrow.
"We should be thinking about what are we teaching men in this society," she added. "What are we teaching young boys and men about how we should not initiate or cross any physical boundary without consent."