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NC working to process backlog of untested rape kits

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Nearly four years after the backlog of sexual assault kits were discovered in North Carolina, the attorney general says progress is being made in testing them.

Approximately 16,000 kits were discovered at the time. Now in 2022, efforts have been made to tackle the issue. Since 2019, 12,000 of the kits have been tested.

NC Attorney General Josh Stein said, “each one of those kits, more than 16,000 came from a person who had experienced a terrible violation of traumatic crime.”

Executive Director of the Onslow County Women’s Center, Christina Richard, said that she is passionate about this issue because of her experience.

“I am a victim of sexual assault, both in my childhood as well as adulthood. So, I recognize the trauma that’s associated with it,” Richard said. “I didn’t feel that I would have been believed. I felt like it was my fault, and I had a lot of different voices in my head telling me that it wasn’t worth the fight, or that my choice in my body wasn’t worth it.”

She shared her story, which is similar to thousands of others across the state and country. She decided not to have forensic testing done at the time of her assaults, but she knows how hard they can be on a victim.

“It’s not easy for them. It is something that they are having to regurgitate and repeat what happened in the trauma that they’ve had but also, they’re physically having to go through something as well, and it can be really traumatizing,” said Richard.

According to Stein, survivors go through, “hours of invasive examination to deliver evidence to the criminal justice system. But it was just sitting on the shelf.”

Stein also said that North Carolina has responded well in correcting this issue.

“I would say that North Carolina has done a great job of developing a strategy to attack this problem of untested rape kits and we’re well on our way to executing on that strategy,” he said.

That strategy includes over $15 million in funding from the state, a law that requires police to submit kits to a lab within a specific time period, additional scientists in the state crime lab, and a kit tracking system.

“We’re seeing a hit on about 42 percent of the instances, meaning four out of 10, there’s a known individual that is connected to that DNA, which gives local law enforcement an incredible lead to pursue an investigation,” Stein said.

He also said that these measures are in place to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

“We are committed to methodically eliminating this backlog, making sure that we get every kit eligible for testing,” said Stein.

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