Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law Tuesday that would require quicker processing of rape kits for sexual assault cases.
The DNA evidence collected can help solve cases, but there hasn’t been a deadline for processing rape kits, said Jennifer Bivins, president of the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault.
“Finally victims who have waited for so long are able to receive justice,” she said.
Last year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that Grady Hospital had more than 1,000 rape kits that had been untested.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, who sponsored the legislation says the bill will address backlog issues.
“We now have a policy in place to ensure that timely processing of rape kits going forward, so we don’t have a backlog problem ever again,” he said.
He said the problem has been a national one and one throughout the state in Georgia.
“These kits are people,” Holcomb said. “These are victims who went through horrible crimes, and then the taking of the kit itself was incredibly invasive and a process that lasted hours. And it’s our obligation and duty to make sure that justice is served.”
Under the law, law enforcement officials would have to pick up rape kits within 96 hours of being notified from hospitals or other examination facilities, and then turn over the evidence to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation within 30 days.
The law also requires law enforcement agencies to keep track of the number of untested rape kits.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the agency currently has about 1,800 rape kits that have been submitted from metro Atlanta agencies and from around the state. He said about 50 were sent to a private forensics lab last week to be tested.
The processing is currently funded by a $1.8 million grant, and said he believes there will be more funding available in the future after inventory is taken of untested rape kits, as required by the law.
“The outstanding number is unknown. I am confident that in the future that there are going to be additional federal grants that will become available for the purpose of analyzing backlog rape kits,” Keenan said.