‘Rape kit’ database supported in Florida House

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the proposal named after an Orlando sexual-assault victim, a House panel on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would require creation of a database that would allow victims and police to track what are known as “rape kits.”

The bill (HB 673), sponsored by Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, would give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement until July 2023 to create the database.

Rape kits include evidence obtained from victims after sexual assaults.

The database would be designed to allow victims and police to track the kits from the time the evidence is collected through the subsequent criminal-justice process.

The bill has been named “Gail’s Law” after Gail Gardner, an Orlando woman who was sexually assaulted in 1988 and whose rape kit was not tested for more than 30 years. She then found out that her attacker was a serial rapist serving a life sentence.

Gardner told members of the House panel Tuesday that she “could not sleep throughout the night” for years, as she did not know whether her attacker remained a threat.

After reports about untested rape kits sitting on shelves, the Department of Law Enforcement in 2016 started a three-year project to process untested kits submitted by local police agencies.

A House staff analysis said the project led to 8,023 kits being processed.

A Senate version of the bill (SB 1002), sponsored by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, has been approved by one committee.