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In my last column, I wrote about how an internal audit by the state of Alaska uncovered more than 3,800 sexual assault kits, some dating back to 1984, that were never submitted to the crime lab for processing.
As the magnitude of what these kits represent sinks in, Alaskans must be more than sad or angry, frustrated or simply resigned. As a state, we must take all those reactions and allow them to germinate into political will. Our state's leaders must have the fortitude to pursue more than feel-good, no- or low-cost solutions.
Our state's citizens must demand compassionate care for victims that rises to the highest-quality medical and forensic standards in anticipation of rigorously pursuing victim wellness while simultaneously laying a meticulous groundwork for criminal cases.
Neither easy nor inexpensive, it will take creative solutions and tenacious front-line advocates, personal commitments by friends and allies to support a victim through the healing process, teams of investigators who believe the victim and a revamped system that honors and proceeds at the victims' pace.
The state's fiscal crisis and its future economic health are unquestionably issues of great import. But can any of us say that financial well-being, dollars spent and dollars saved, are more important than upholding human dignity and protecting human bodies from violation? Alaska, we are capable of doing better.
An audit is a step in the right direction, a starting point, and as the conversation on this important topic evolves, I wanted to expand on some of the questions raised in response to the first column, with answers from subject matter experts. I hope it helps. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. It seems outrageous that such a large number of unprocessed kits exists.
How did this happen? How do can people help to prevent it? Amanda Price, senior adviser for crime and policy to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker: The governor agrees that it is unacceptable. When the numbers came in, he ordered that effective processing of these unsubmitted sexual assault kits be a priority. He also ordered a complete system review and overhaul to ensure this never happens again.