• Special to the Leader & Times
TOPEKA – When the legislature convenes next week, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will recommend legislation to allow victims of sexual assault to qualify for crime victim assistance even when an attacker is identified years after the assault.
Schmidt will recommend legislation to allow the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Board to consider requests from sexual assault victims within two years of the date a sexual assault victim is notified that testing has identified a DNA profile of the suspect or that the suspect’s actual identify has been discovered, whichever is later. Under current law, the statute of limitations bars most victim compensation claims filed more than two years after the date of the crime regardless of when a suspect is identified, and consequently victims are ineligible for support when the victim is told that later DNA testing has identified the suspected attacker.
“The advent of DNA forensic science, and the state’s recent efforts to process previously un-submitted sexual assault kits, has resulted in attackers being identified sometimes years after the crime,” Schmidt said. “In many of those cases, the victim would benefit from counseling or other forms of support ordinarily available to victims of sexual assault, but because of the statute of limitations in current law the crime victims compensation board often is barred from providing that help. That should be changed.”
In 2015, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation applied for and received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to support the state’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). That ongoing effort works to perform DNA testing on sexual assault kits collected from crimes in years past. As part of the SAKI project, the attorney general’s office provides support for assault victims who are informed, sometimes years after an attack, that their case is again active because of the new DNA evidence.
One part of the overall victim support the attorney general’s office wants to provide is the sort of financial support – such as paying for counseling services – that the Crime Victims Compensation Board ordinarily would make available to sexual assault victims who otherwise qualify. Enactment of legislation to extend the statute of limitations is necessary to allow that support to be available in these cases involving crimes committed years ago.
The Division of Crime Victims Compensation in Schmidt’s office administers the Crime Victims Compensation program, which was established in 1978 to help victims of violent crime pay for their unexpected expenses such as medical treatment, mental health counseling, lost wages, dependent support and funeral expenses. A portion of assessed court costs and fines, inmate wages, parole fees and restitution paid by convicted offenders provides funding to the program.