COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has more than 800 rape kits that have not been tested and this number doesn’t reflect kits that are still being stored at the local law enforcement level.
But a bill making its way through the State House aims to speed up the testing process and decrease the number of kits on backlog.
The “sexual assault kit tracking” bill was passed in the final days of the legislative session. The bill filed by Orangeburg lawmaker Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter would create a tracking system statewide for rape kits.
Shauna Galloway-Williams is the executive director of the Julie Valentine Center, which offers services and programs to victims of child abuse and sexual assault. Galloway-Williams explained why a system like this is needed.
“We can track a piece of fruit from the time it leaves a garden to the time it reaches a person plate and we can retrieve all of that if something goes wrong we should be able to do the same with a rape kit,” Galloway-Williams said.
The bill requires law enforcement agencies to record and report when a rape kit is done. That information is then passed along to the victim who can monitor the status of the evidence from collection to analysis.
Representative Seth Rose of Columbia is cosponsoring the bill that was unanimously passed in the House.
Rep. Rose added, “It would allow victims to monitor their rape kit as it goes through the process, has it been tested and be able to know where it is where it’s being kept and also serves a way to reach out to law enforcement and say ‘hey it’s been four months why hasn’t this moved.’”
Several law enforcement agencies across the state face the problem of kits going untested. This bill would help send rape kits to the forensic labs quicker by streamlining the different processes currently being used by different departments across the state.
“Depending on where you live in the state, which jurisdiction you’re in, may determine what happens to your kit whether it’s sent to the lab for testing whether it’s part of the investigation,” Galloway-Williams continued.
If passed, SLED would have to submit a biannual report to lawmakers tracking the number of kits and how long it takes for them to be processed.
When lawmakers return to the State House in January, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin discussion on the bill.
If passed, this system would go online in 2021. The bill also includes anonymous rape kits, which are kits conducted without an accompanying police report. Anonymous kits currently are kept for one year and are not processed until a victim decided to file a report.
For additional resources for survivors of sexual assault, click HERE.