Attorney General: North Carolina ends backlog on rape kits

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – Sexual assault survivors got one step closer to closure, accountability, and justice on Tuesday.

“I became a victim on September 25th of 1992. Rape kits give the victim a voice. The voice and power to learn how to heal from the inside to the outside,” sexual assault victim and advocate, Ms. Linda, shared.

State Attorney General Josh Stein was joined by local law enforcement leaders, scientists from the state crime lab, and many more for one reason to announce, “Today, North Carolina has ended the backlog of untested rape kits,” Stein said.

According to the Department of Justice, more than 16,000 rape kits sat on the shelves of local law enforcement agencies in 2019.

The Survivor’s Act of 2019 was enacted to process old kits, provide more funding, and send new kits promptly.

As of Tuesday, 11,841 rape kits have been tested or are in the process of getting tested with samples entered in the CODIS DNA database.

Sergeant Lee Darnell from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says the Survivor’s Act had a positive impact on law enforcement agencies in the east as well.

“Law change in 2019 made a huge difference, really setting a new course for handling and processing of evidence of this nature. It’s been well received here. It made a big difference,” Sgt. Darnell explained.

As a chief operating officer at the NC Stop Human Trafficking, Melinda Sampson says this progress shows that survivors are getting the priority they deserve now.

“It really puts them close to the forefront of the justice they want, and it also gives other advocates leverage to say well, they are working on this, it’s getting better, justice can be available,” Sampson said.