Skip to Content

Partisan fighting could hold up sexual assault kit legislation

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

MADISON (WKOW) -- A political fight at the state Capitol could hold up bipartisan legislation that aims to improve how Wisconsin responds to sexual assaults.

Attorney General Josh Kaul and advocates showed up for an Assembly committee hearing Wednesday, to speak out against a new bill introduced earlier this week.

It comes after the Senate passed a bill the AG was involved in, on sexual assault kit testing procedures.

"My biggest objection to this bill is that I believe that it is designed not to actually get legislation passed, but to kill good legislation," Kaul told lawmakers on the committee.

The new bill combines ideas on the processing of sexual assault kits with new rights for victims and data collection.

"We want to make sure that we're trying to give [victims] every opportunity to be treated respectfully, and most importantly, that they are aware of all the options that are available for them," said Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a Republican from Menomonee Falls, who worked on the bill.

But Kaul says some of the measures added undermine efforts to streamline the process, focusing on issues that have divided lawmakers, like immigration and school choice.

"It clearly was designed to introduce topics that you all know would be divisive to distract from what's going on here, which is that legislation that can help survivors of sexual assault is not being passed. The goal clearly is to divert attention to other divisive topics," Kaul said at the hearing.

The bill includes a requirement that law enforcement agencies must notify federal immigration authorities if a person arrested for sexual assault is an undocumented immigrant. It also allows student victims of sexual assault to leave their school through the state's parental choice program.

It became a debate at the hearing, with the chair saying there's no reason for Kaul not to support the bill.

"The bill is not politicizing the issue," said Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, a Republican from New Berlin. "The people who say we can't protect victims of sexual assault, because we don't want to use a vehicle that we may be philosophically against, such as school choice."

Sanfelippo had previously refused to hold a hearing on the first bill that the Senate approved.

Rape survivor Jacqueline Jaske joined Kaul at a news conference and also shared her story with lawmakers at the hearing.

"If I wouldn't have had success with the DNA evidence in my case, my attacker would have found another victim and succeeded in killing her like he voiced he intended to do to me," Jaske told the committee.

She worries the political fight will hold up legislation to correct issues that led to a massive backlog of untested rape kits in Wisconsin.

"There is no champion here. There are only human beings waiting for justice," Jaske said.

Republicans who wrote the bill say they made changes to get their party on board.

"That clock was ticking loudly and I didn't want to go another session without this getting done," said Rep. David Steffen, from Green Bay. "I don't want legislation that can be very impactful to not get across the goal line simply because it's not 100 percent."

But Democrats say ultimately, it will hurt survivors.

"There are victims in all of our districts who are being thrown under the bus in order to meet some partisan political goal and that's just not right," said Rep. Lisa Subeck, of Madison.

Kaul says the new bill also calls for too many requirements that aren't supported with funding. He says leading advocacy groups for sexual assault survivors don't approve of some of the methods and ideas behind the proposals.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

Skip to content