May 28, 2020
Our success of becoming one of the first states to fully eliminate its sexual assault forensic evidence kit backlog and to also implement legislative policies that ensure consistent testing practices in the future is the result of the investment and commitment of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
Eliminating Oregon’s backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits does more than just pushing a reset button. It recognizes the missteps of the past and helps to restore confidence in our public safety system. For too long, survivors of sexual assault were left fighting for a voice. Today, through our trauma-informed practices, we work with survivors of sexual assault every day to ensure they understand their rights as crime victims. We make sure they are informed of every step of the process. We make sure that their voice is not only heard, but that we listen and that we are responsive.
Locally, we achieved our success quickly because of the shared dedication of local law enforcement including the Oregon State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory. This combined effort highlights the positive outcomes possible in the criminal justice system. I am proud of the current and past members of our Untested Sexual Assault Kit Team. Their passionate commitment to public safety and victims makes our community safer and stronger.
Finally, we honor Melissa Bitler – a 14 year old girl raped and murdered in Portland. The DNA in her case identified a serial rapist and propelled significant changes with how law enforcement processes DNA evidence. “Melissa’s Law,” which requires the timely testing of sexual assault forensic evidence kits passed in 2015, and was named after Melissa.