New law will set timeline for processing rape kits

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 6:36 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A new timeline will soon be in place for getting rape kits processed in Mississippi. Advocates partnered with national organizations to call attention to the problem with delays.

There are some elements of hypothetical hope that advocates offer when speaking to sexual assault and rape victims.

“I have seen so many cases where they have the kit done, they, you know, are thinking that it’s being tested, and then it’s a year later, and they don’t have results, and their kits still sitting at the hospital or sitting at law enforcement,” explained Beth McCord, Bridge Forensic Clinic nurse practitioner. “And so this is going to be huge for those patients that do want to report.”

Bridge Forensics Clinic’s Beth McCord notes that this law does not make reporting mandatory. It’s still up to the victim. Currently, there is no timeline for processing kits.

Center for Violence Prevention Executive Director Sandy Middleton says they look at this type of legislation from two perspectives, how to help victims, and prevent those crimes in our communities.

“Let’s get these rapists off the street and put them in jail, where you know, we don’t have to worry about them offending anymore,” noted Sandy Middleton.

The timeline that will take effect this summer. The medical facility would have to call law enforcement within four hours of performing the exam.

Law enforcement would have to pick up the kit within 24 hours. And then deliver it to the crime lab no later than seven days from that. And finally the crime lab will have 60 days to process the kit.

“That is hugely empowering for victims and sadly, that’s what sexual assault and rape does to the victim is it robs them of all of their power,” added Middleton. “And you know, this is just a small step to be able to empower them for them to feel better and you know, feel some hope about recovery.”

Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill just one day before similar legislation died in Tennessee. Kidnapped Memphis runner Eliza Fletcher’s case was being used as an example there. The man accused of her murder was matched to DNA from an untested rape kit.

For details on resources, contact the Center for Violence Prevention at 601-932-4198.

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