New law meant to speed testing of rape kits

June 27, 2011 4:06:58 PM PDT
Crime victims are living in fear while their attackers remain on the loose, and the evidence that could put them behind bars collects dust on a shelf. It's a situation that happens all too often in Texas, but a new law could change that.

We've been telling you about the lag in the testing of rape kits for years. Now, a new law is meant to speed up that process. What remains to be seen is how much of a difference it will make.

There could be as many as 20,000 cases across the state with untested rape kits. There are many challenges, from funding to manpower, but one local group says the signing of this bill is progress.

At the Houston Area Women's Center, where they take 3,000 sexual assault calls a year, they say the state has taken a step in the right direction.

"It is a very invasive exam and so it takes a lot of courage for women to come forward and do that, and to have the results of that not discovered or used can be very frustrating," said Rebecca White, president and CEO of the Houston Area Women's Center

The bill directs police stations to submit existing rape kits to accredited crime labs by next year. Any new kits would have to go to a lab within 30 days and be tested within 90 days.

Some kits have been sitting in evidence rooms for years.

"There are some going back years and years in Houston that they know about. We don't really have a good sense of how many and this will help us have a better understanding," White said.

Advocates for victims, some of whom have waited years, say it's another tool to hold more suspects accountable.

The City of Houston has also received a federal grant to help them with their backlog at the crime lab.


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