Sexual assault is a crime no one wants to think about, and few of us do. Victims often suffer silently, rarely approaching the media to share their stories. Despite the fact that all of the stigma should fall on the perpetrator, victims can struggle with shame or guilt, made more complicated by the fact that, in many cases, the victim has a relationship of some sort with the offender.
So as news of delays in processing sexual assault kits has made the rounds in Florida and nationally, those who work closely with survivors appreciate that, at last, a conversation is being had about this violent crime.
For months, state officials have focused on newly released information that nearly 10,000 rape kits across the state haven’t even been turned into crime labs for processing.
Although there are valid reasons for law enforcement agencies not to submit the kits, officials agree that the majority of those sitting at agencies across the state should be submitted. Benefits include building a stronger database, which could lead to unsolved cases being resolved.
It’s not a subject that’s easy for most of us to really understand.
But we all understand problems caused when bureaucracy or under-funding at the state or national level causes painful delays for individuals who are already suffering.
Victims of violent crimes need to know, and be constantly reassured, that everything that can be done to bring a case to a just end is being done.
The move to address the backlog in processing important evidence is a step in the right direction. Almost half of the country has enacted reforms to end this backlog, with Florida recently joining the ranks.
It wasn’t until Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 636, which requires rape kits to be submitted in 30 days (and for testing to be completed no later than 120 days) that Florida required law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits for testing.
Nationally, only 3 percent of rapists will spend even a single day in prison. The more kits that are sent and tested, there’s a chance that more offenders will be punished.