On average, 36 sexual assault evidence collection kits are collected each week in North Carolina. It is staggering to think that this heinous crime occurs so frequently. Each one of these kits represents a tragedy in someone’s life. We need to send a clear message to all survivors: The State of North Carolina cares greatly about what happened to you, and we’re going to do everything in our power to help you see justice.
Last month, along with Sen. Warren Daniel and Reps. Jamie Boles, Carson Smith, Mary Belk, and Billy Richardson, I announced the Standing Up for Rape Victims Act, or the Survivor Act. The Survivor Act helps address two key objectives. First, it seeks $6 million in funding over the next two years so we can test older kits, secure justice for victims and survivors, and take the people who committed these crimes off the streets.
Second, the legislation also creates a new set of requirements for testing sexual assault kits. These requirements will ensure that all kits are reported to law enforcement and tested by an accredited lab in a timely manner. All of these reports will be analyzed to develop DNA profiles for the sexual assault database, which will help us catch serial rapists. These new requirements will help us solve cases, prevent a backlog like this from ever happening again, and make sure that no victim has to wait endlessly for the state to pursue justice.
Last year, after conducting an inventory that found there were more than 15,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in local law enforcement agencies, I recommended creating a statewide tracking system for all future kits. The State Crime Lab launched this tracking system in October 2018 – now, victims and survivors can see the real-time testing status of their kit. This transparency will improve the accountability of our criminal justice system.
I also asked the General Assembly to create a committee that could develop a protocol to test all future kits, as well as the existing untested kits. This working group convened in 2018 to develop a statewide plan. The Survivor Act is the outgrowth of that process.
Using existing funding, my office and the State Crime Lab have already tested about 800 kits over the last several months – and about 10 percent of those have resulted in hits that breathe new life into cold cases.
Every victim deserves to have law enforcement do our best to solve their case. We also need to send a clear message to any rapists: No matter how long ago your crime occurred, we are coming for you. That’s what the Survivor Act is all about – putting survivors first and holding rapists accountable.
Getting justice for victims of sexual assault is one part of the solution. It is an important part of becoming a survivor. If you, or someone you know, needs support for sexual assault, please know that you are not alone. You can get confidential help and access to resources by contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), online at https://www.rainn.org/ or in Spanish at https://www.rainn.org/es. Department of Defense community members can also contact the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or https://safehelpline.org/.
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