GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) — Nearly four years after a backlog of about 16,000 sexual assault kits was found in North Carolina, the attorney general says 12,000 of them have been tested.
“Each one of those kits, more than 16,000, came from a person who had experienced a terrible violation of traumatic crime,” Attorney General Josh Stein said.
Christina Richard, executive director of the Onslow County Women’s Center, said she is passionate about the issue because of her experience.
“I am a victim of sexual assault, both in my childhood as well as adulthood,” she said. “So, I recognize the trauma that’s associated with it. I didn’t feel that I would have been believed. I felt like it was my fault, and I had a lot of different voices in my head telling me that it wasn’t worth the fight, or that my choice in my body wasn’t worth it.”
Richard shared her story, which is similar to thousands of others across the state and country. She decided not to have forensic testing done at the time of her assaults, but she knows how hard they can be on a victim.
“It’s not easy for them,” she said. “It is something that they are having to regurgitate and repeat what happened in the trauma that they’ve had, but also, they’re physically having to go through something as well, and it can be really traumatizing.”
According to Stein, survivors go through “hours of invasive examination to deliver evidence to the criminal justice system” only to see it end up sitting on a shelf.
Stein said North Carolina has responded well in correcting this issue.
“I would say that North Carolina has done a great job of developing a strategy to attack this problem of untested rape kits, and we’re well on our way to executing on that strategy,” he said.
The strategy includes more than $15 million from the state, a law that requires police to submit kits to a lab within a specific time period, additional scientists in the state crime laboratory and a kit tracking system.
“We’re seeing a hit on about 42% of the instances, meaning four out of 10 there’s a known individual that is connected to that DNA, which gives local law enforcement an incredible lead to pursue an investigation,” Stein said.
He also said the measures are in place to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
“We are committed to methodically eliminating this backlog, making sure that we get every kit eligible for testing,” Stein said.