Updated June 25, 2014.
Controversy has arisen this week over proposed amendments to the processing of rape kits in Utah.
During a Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee meeting last week, Rep. Jennifer Seelig (D- Salt Lake) pushed for additional processing of backlogged rape kits. Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R- Salt Lake, Tooele) questioned the wisdom of the proposed resource allocation.
Thatcher, who acts as the executive offices and criminal justices appropriations chair, has received heat from Peter Corroon and others on the left who claim he is doesn’t “get it.” They say all sexual assault kits have evidentiary value.
Corroon issued a statement shortly following the presentation of the amendments which states, “The legislature’s job is not to prioritize these cases, and these victims. All sexual assault kits have evidentiary value, because all sexual assault victims have value. In this modern age of DNA testing and crime evidence, Utahns deserve more and better representation.”
Thatcher says he does get it, more than many, having been a victim of sexual abuse himself. He says there is no backlog.
“A backlog means that kits are being sent and are sitting on the shelf. All of the kits that are sent are being processed," said Thatcher. "What is being called a backlog are kits that law enforcement says we don’t need.”
“If there is a case where the perpetrator is already dead, typically they don’t process that kit. If there is a case where the person is already in the system, why would we spend $1,200 to process that kit,” he said.
Seelig said during the meeting that additional processing measures would allow the state to go back and see if something was missed; she said some evidence may have slipped through the cracks. Many Democrats claim this additional focus in processing could be important for tying cases together and say many rape victims are still waiting for a resolution to their cases.
Thatcher says these measures are unnecessary and would be a misuse of funds, which he believes could be used elsewhere to better help victims of abuse. He says he sees no evidence that there are individuals waiting for resolution from these kits, but claims all cases brought forward by law enforcement for processing have been handled.
Thatcher says comments from the left are cheap political shots, using an emotional issue to gain political clout on an election year, instead of focusing on abuse victims and proper allocation of resources. Thatcher says Coroon knows the additional processing is not necessary, and has confided in him privately that he only supports the measure for political reasons.
“He cares more about elections than he cares about people, and I know that is a very harsh criticism to level, but frankly there is no other explanation," said Thatcher.
"The real disappointment is he knew it was a lie. He put it forward anyway. And yet because Democrats are such a minority in Utah, even the good ones, even my friends—people that cried on my shoulder when they heard my story and said, 'I'm so sorry, you're not the only one'—when I called that legislator and asked her to stand up and defend me, her response was, 'You know I can't do that, Peter is a friend.' Do you know what? I don't care if he is a friend or not. If my friend told a lie that dirty about you I might sock him in the face, and that is if I like the guy," said Thatcher.
Thatcher says the people being hurt by this politicized situation are the victims of abuse. He says next time a discussion about sexual assault is brought up, people will be more afraid to open up about the subject and discuss decisions because of this experience.
“People are afraid to talk about sexual assault because they’re afraid some opportunistic scumbag is going to lie about what they said,” said Thatcher. “Why would they face that? Why wouldn’t they just stick their head in the sand and ignore it because then they can’t be attacked?”
Messages left by UPR at the Democratic Party Headquarters for Corroon were not immediately returned.