RALEIGH, N.C. (AP & WNCN) – North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says a new law to fund testing for sexual assault kits sitting in law enforcement evidence closets will put rapists in prison and ensure a backlog never happens again.
Stein, police and sexual assault victim advocates held a news conference on Thursday at the State Crime Laboratory to praise the measure signed the day before by Gov. Roy Cooper.
An audit determined there were 15,000 untested kits located across the state as of last year. The measure includes $6 million over two years and requires police and sheriffs to submit future kits for testing within 45 days.
The measure is one of four Cooper signed this week that contained otherwise popular provisions from the state budget bill that Cooper vetoed for other reasons.
Stein spoke about two key goals of the SURVIVOR Act.
“One, to secure the funding necessary to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits once and for all. And two, to ensure it never develops again in the state of North Carolina,” he said. “And, frankly, the state has not done right by those people until today.”
The Fayetteville Police Department is one agency that has prioritized testing these kits and has reduced its backlog to zero. Earlier this year, police arrested a suspect in a rape case from 1987.
Krista Maiden spoke about the trauma of being attacked at random by a man in 2015 near Uptown Charlotte and waiting two years to hear back from investigators about the results from her evidence kit.
“Without having the kits tested, you don’t have the evidence. But, you’ve got have people that are trained and know what to do with the evidence,” she said.
In her case, she said the district attorney ultimately dismissed the case in part because an unknown man’s DNA profile also appeared in her results.
She said part of her healing process is to talk with others about her experience and advocate for change on behalf of other survivors of sexual assault, including clearing the backlog of untested rape kits.
“That’s huge, and it’s a very important part. But, it’s a part,” she said.
Atty. Gen. Stein said some of the testings will be outsourced to private companies. As other states also try to clear their backlogs, Stein acknowledged it could take “a few years” to test all of North Carolina’s kits.“Now that we have this funding secured, we can negotiate with them to try to increase their capacity. But, the fact of the matter is, it will take a few years before this backlog is eliminated,” he said.
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