3 months after rape kit test legislation passed, backlog has improved

3 months after rape kit test legislation passed, backlog has improved

Columbus, GA (WTVM) -  Ja'Vonda Green was 13 when she was sexually assaulted. Still a minor, she asked to have a rape kit test to help prove which five suspects were responsible for the crime.

"When I found out that the other three were not prosecuted, especially the main one that initiated it all, I was very upset," said Green, who is now 24 years old. 

In April, Georgia joined the growing list of states embracing reform for rape kits. The new legislation set guidelines for rape kit testing, hoping to avoid the backlog that had been building up for years, and bringing more pain to victims.  

Georgia legislators acted to relieve the backlog of rape kit tests sent to state investigators, signing Senate Bill 304 into law.

The Sexual Assault Support Center in Columbus, an advocate group, says the backlog numbers are low in the city, but they're not representative of the total sexual assault crimes in the area. 

"The sad reality is a large percentage of adult sexual assault cases never even get to the district attorney's office," said Kyle Bair, executive director of SASC. 

Another area of concern for Bair, advocates, and law enforcement is if enough time passes after the crime, some kits coming into crime labs may not offer proof.

"There's an attrition rate for those that d rop out," she said. "Sometimes no evidence is found in the kit. Sometimes law enforcement can't prove the elements of the crime." 

Bair said she believes an upgrade in technology for kits, as well as funding for resources like the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), will preserve evidence and help solve future cases. 

"The team was just established last in November of last year," Bair said, "and hopefully, the S.A.R.T. team is going to be a very valuable part of the process going forward."

Green said she now wants to do her part as a volunteer to share her story with other victims to seek every option available to catch criminals. 

"More than likely, there is someone that I'm speaking to that experienced the same thing I experienced, if not, even worse," Green said.  

One thing the test kit legislation enacted was the requirement that law enforcement submit rape kits for testing within 30 days of pickup from the hospital. 

In addition, all previously untested rape kits in the state's backlog now have to be submitted by August 2016.

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