KY bill authorizes a study on backlogged rape kits

A local state plans to expose the problem with backlogged rape kits keeping victims in mind. Legal Advocate Grace Stewart sad, “They’ve put themselves through this and they deserve some closure.”

No one knows how many rape kits are sitting in storage waiting to be sent to labs, but that could change soon. The general assembly in Kentucky is sending a bill to the governor’s desk that would authorize a study on the number of kits that have been used but haven’t been sent to the state crime lab for testing.

The Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center is a place where victims can find the strength and courage it takes to heal. Legal advocate Grace Stewart said part of her job is also making sure victims know everything about the evidence collection process. “It’s a rather inclusive. It’s a very thorough, daunting exam,” she said. It’s an intrusion after an assault with results that only come at the discretion of police and prosecutors.

Sergeant Darrin Frommeyer with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office said, “If we have an unknown suspect, we will definitely send the kit to the Kentucky State Police lab immediately.” There are some kits they hold on to. “If we’re not able to obtain enough evidence at that time and prosecution doesn’t want to go forward… There’s no sense in sending off the sexual assault kit to the lab, because there’s not a case at that time,” he said.

Kits sitting on shelves can create a backlog across the state meaning some cases can be missed. “You may have a department where things get overlooked, and they just completely forgot about it,” said Sgt. Frommeyer. That’s why Stewart said she supports the bill to count up backlogged kits at police departments. “No one really knew this was a problem, so hopefully getting this out there so it can be addressed will help victims in our region,” she said.

There is also a backlog at the state crime lab. Sgt. Frommeyer has a case right now that he sent off in December. He’s still waiting for those results.

If law enforcement agencies across the state start sending more kits to the lab, the backlog there could get even worse as an unintended consequence of the bill.  But, if the state finds there’s a substantial amount of kits waiting to be sent to the lab, they could attempt to get federal money to help ease the work load.

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