State Officials Call for Change in Sexual Assault Cases at Rally

Rally goers dance while guitarist Kateri Lopez sings at Civic Plaza Sunday. Photo by Allison Giron / NM News Port

Allison Giron / New Mexico News Port

ALBUQUERQUE–A few hundred civilians gathered Sunday, including state Auditor Tim Keller, to address sexual assault prevention options and much the needed government involvement within New Mexico.

“We need to remind the world we’re living in that violence against children, women and men is not acceptable,” City Councilor Diane Gibson said at the rally. “We need to change the culture.”

According to a special audit report done in Dec. 2016 by Tim Keller, New Mexico was deemed having the highest amount untested kits per capita.

The report found that there is 5, 440 untested kits in New Mexico with more than 70 percent of  those kits residing in Albuquerque.

State Auditor Tim Keller talks about the rape kit backlog and necessary steps that need to happen to fix the issue. Photo by Allison Giron / NM Newsport

Keller who talked briefly at the rally, emphasized the importance of state level involvement and how the state is making an attempt to fix the rape kit backlog in a two year span.

A total of three bills were passed in the recent legislative session. Senate Bill’s 474 and 475 were passed April 6th by Gov. Martinez. The governor still has until noon on April 7, to either veto or pass the remaining bills.

Senate Bill 474 specifically calls on the required assistance of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to help test the kits. The second, Senate Bill 475, requires all law enforcement agencies to test the sexual assault examination kits within thirty days of receiving them. House Bill 536 asks for tax refunds for rape kit processing.

Though the state has made some improvement in addressing the backlog, Keller thinks more needs to be done at the city level.

“4,000 (sexual assault kits) are in the city of Albuquerque’s crime lab,” Keller said. “Despite all the ordinances that were passed and the money that has been allocated, that will only deal with less than half of the untested kits.”

Keller is referring to Mayor Richard Berry’s recent proposed budget release that stated $1 million in funds will go towards addressing the backlog.

With money now being set aside, CNM nursing student Eloy Bojorquez thinks police attitude towards the subject needs to match the cities effort.

If police started taking these cases serious, and victims saw results, more victims would speak up Bojorquez said. “I feel as if the Albuquerque Police tend to brush off these kinds of cases as not being serious.”

April is national sexual assault awareness month. The rally was organized by the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico and other community organizations.

Rally goers dance while guitarist Kateri Lopez sings at Civic Plaza Sunday.
Photo by Allison Giron / NM News Port

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