Bipartisan bill would allow victims to track rape kits

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — A bill that would allow sexual assault survivors to closely track their rape kits could soon be debated on the House and Senate floor.

It’s an issue facing many sexual assault victims in Tennessee.

“Memphis had about 12,000 untested kits,” said Kathy Walsh, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence.

But that isn’t the only area that’s had major evidence collection concerns.

“The next closest jurisdiction to that was Knoxville with 400 and Nashville with 200,” Walsh said.

The bipartisan bill looks to correct the issues by making improvements to collecting, storage and tracking of rape kits.

“The survivor will be able to track at every moment the different steps as their kit works its way through the process,” said Rep. Bob Freeman, a Nashville Democrat.

Through a Federal Grant Program, the electronic tracking system is free to TBI.

Hospitals will be required to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of collecting the rape kit and they must pick up the samples within seven days.

“So, it’s making some changes in that system to make it quicker to move this process along a little quicker and a little more smoothly,” Walsh said.

TBI must receive the kit for testing within 45 days, down from 60 days.

“It gives them power to control one thing in this process and that is knowing that the kit has been tested and advocating appropriately for themselves,” Freeman said.

Many states including Arkansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, and the city of Memphis now use electronic tracking of rape kits. The bill would also expand the number of years law enforcement is required to store a hold kit from three years to 10 years.

Sexual assault victims may choose not to make a police report at the time the evidence is collected. In these cases, the rape kit is tagged with a number, rather than the victim’s name.

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