Progress being made in rape kit backlog, more to do

In Georgia the effort to tackle the backlog of untested rape kits remains an issue. although we’re told more kits are now being analyzed. Still, advocates say we need to keep moving forward because victims deserve it.

“What we see with the rape kit backlog is that it’s not just that a kit sat on a shelf but there was an opportunity for justice that never came, there was an opportunity to prevent future rape,” says Keisha Gibson Carter of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire

in 2016, a new Georgia law went into effect that mandates that kits must be picked up faster from medical facilities and that that after 30 days, the kits must be passed on from law enforcement to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

Statewide, new initiatives are being implemented to provide grant funding in some cases to help get kits tested and to work with local law enforcement and prosecutors.

And while the so called backlog problem was created by a number of factors over the years including a lack of local protocols on testing or a lack of training and funding, the GBI says more testing of kits is being accomplished.

Last week it issued a yearly report indicating that since the effort began in 2016 (as part of the new law’s mandate) that 1.900 kits have been tested. But a little more than 1,000 kits still need testing. In addition the GBI Crime Lab said it was “storing” evidence related to 4,411 sexual assault cases submitted (to them) prior to 1999. Now 1,370 of those cases are on the list for DNA analysis.

Carter is still trying to obtain information about how many kits in Chatham County for example have yet to be tested. We asked the GBI for that information as well and were told it may be provided within a few days.

Carter says nationally, in communities where testing has been done that “they are seeing an increase of at least 20 percent in the number of (sexual assault) cases they are solving.”

She hopes it means a better outcome in the future. “When we ask questions about the status of our victim’s kit ,when we ask questions about was the kit processed was the kit submitted, I’m hopeful that going forward we will now get those answers,” she said.

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