SC bill would decrease backlog in testing rape kits

South Carolina News

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 is making its way through the State House that aims to speed up the testing process and decrease the number of kits on backlog.
 
The bill was passed in the final days of the legislative session but what it would do is create a tracking system statewide for rape kits.
Orangeburg lawmaker Gilda Cobb Hunter filed a bill in December to create a system of checks and balances for sexual assault victims. The bill calls for the creation of a statewide tracking system for rape kits.
Shauna Galloway-Williams, executive director of the Julie Valentine Center, says, “We can track a piece of fruit from the time it leaves a garden to the time it reaches a person’s plate and we can retrieve all of that if something goes wrong–we should be able to do the same with a rape kit.”
The bill requires law enforcement agencies to record and report when a rape kit is done.
That information is passed along to the victim who can monitor the status of the evidence from collection to analysis.
Representative Seth Rose (D) of Richland says, “It would allow victims to monitor their rape kit as it goes through the process–(to see) 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?”
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,” says Williams.
If passed, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division 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 statehouse in January, a Senate judiciary committee will begin a discussion on the bill. If passed this system would go online in 2021.
This 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.

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