AUSTIN, Texas — State Representative Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) filed a bill this week aimed at reducing the backlog of untested rape kits across Texas.
House Bill 8 is called the "Lavinia Masters Act." The bill's namesake traveled to the Capitol Tuesday to share her story.
In 1985, Masters was raped at knifepoint in her Dallas home. She was just 13 years old. Her rape kit sat on a shelf, untested, for more than 20 years.
Masters said when it was finally tested, the 10-year statute of limitations had run out. She believes if her kit had been tested, other women would have been spared.
"My perpetrator, he violated others. When they finally found out who he was, he was known as a serial rapist," Masters said. " All because my evidence sat on a shelf. He could have not raped somebody's daughter that he carjacked and raped. He could have not raped somebody's grandmother."
According to Rep. Neave's office, the Lavinia Masters Act will:
- Require an audit of untested rape kits to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in Texas
- Create timelines for the submission, testing and analysis for all newly collected kits
- Prohibit law enforcement agencies from destroying rape kits related to an uncharged or unsolved case until the later of: (1) the length of the statute of limitations or (2) 50 years
- Toll the statute of limitations for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault until the rape kit is tested
- Increase the time the Texas Department of Public Safety maintains rape kits classified as "non-reports" from two years to five years
Rep. Neave also pointed out other bills to help sexual assault victims in Texas. House Bill 616 will allow healthcare facilities or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) to apply for direct reimbursement for forensic sexual assault exams from the Crime Victim Compensation (CVC) Fund.
Rep. Neave said this will streamline the reimbursement process and allow for faster reimbursement for health care facilities and less administrative burdens for law enforcement.
House Bill 282 requires law enforcement officers be trained on trauma-informed interviewing techniques when speaking to survivors of rape and sexual violence.
Rep. Neave said the bills have bi-partisan support, so she is hopeful they will pass this legislative session.