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Politics & Government

New sexual assault kit laws give survivors “power and control” over the process

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When a person is sexually assault, a trained nurse will help law enforcement collect evidence that can be used to find and convict the abuser.

In 2014, The Wisconsin Attorney’s General Office conducted an audit and found nearly 7,000 sexual assault kits waiting to be tested.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in the numbers, but just remembering that behind every sexual assault kit is a person. It’s somebody that’s waiting for answers, that’s waiting for their kit. Evidence that was collected from their bodies to be tested,” said Angela Frieze, the Sexual Violence Program Coordinator at Embrace’s Price County office.

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced as of April 7th, 1,087 kits with foreign DNA identified have been added to a national database of DNA profiles, out of 4,476 tested sexual assault kits.

Some of those kits dated back years.

Frieze said getting notified that their kit was being tested after all those years can be triggering for survivors.

“It puts them right back in that moment and kind of makes them relive all of that trauma and it can be triggering. It can be hard to help them move along in their healing journey still having that kit untested,” said Frieze.

New state laws should help prevent a backlog of sexual assault kits from forming again by setting a process for collecting and tracking sexual assault evidence kits.

It gives hard deadlines for law enforcement to submit kits for testing and it gives victims flexibility on when or if they want their kit tested.

Victims will also be able to track where their kit is in the process.

Frieze says the most powerful part of the news laws is the control it gives survivors.

“It’s so trauma-informed. That’s what we need to do when we’re working with sexual assault survivors is giving them back that control and that power and just being able to access that that information. I think that’s going to have such a huge impact,” she said.

Under the new law, kits will be stored up to 10 years for survivors that don’t want their kits tested immediately.

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