CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A bill to create a statewide tracking system for rape kits in South Carolina will go before a Senate subcommittee next week.
It’s the latest step in an effort to create a way for survivors of sexual assault to easily find out where their evidence is in the testing process or know which agency is in control of their evidence.
Advocacy groups, like Charleston’s People Against Rape, say the potential impacts of such a system would provide hope for survivors.
“To make that decision to have this very invasive exam conducted to collect evidence, is huge,” said Djuanna Brockington, the interim executive director for PAR. “To know that someone on the other end is dedicated to ensuring that this information is stored appropriately, that it’s tracked appropriately, and eventually will be tested, means there is hope that whoever did this insidious thing will be held accountable for their actions.”
A backlog of rape kits still exists in the Palmetto State, despite more awareness and increased efforts to account for and test sexual assault evidence in recent years.
According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, 1333 criminal sexual conduct cases submitted to SLED’s forensic lab were awaiting testing as of Dec. 31, 2019.
Brockington believes a lack of resources and funding have held South Carolina leaders back from passing this legislation sooner.
“It’s having the money. It’s having the man-power,” Brockington said. “Not only do you have to store these, but you have to test them. You have to have trained staff to do that. You’ve got to have labs to send them to, so it’s a myriad of things.”
Brockington believes a rape tracking system could help prevent violent, sexual attacks and help law enforcement officers solve other crimes.
“We know that sexual predators often commit other types of crimes, so the DNA, tracking these rape kits and using the DNA could help also potentially solve other crimes,” Brockington said. “It gives the message to the perpetrator that we take this seriously and we’re coming for you. That could serve as a deterrent.”
The Sexual Assault Tracking System bill garnered unanimous support from the South Carolina House in 2019. Now, it will go before the Senate’s judiciary subcommittee on Feb. 5 at 9 a.m.