One-hundred and fifty-nine new laws took effect in the state of Florida Friday. For survivors of sexual assault, the most important new law may be the one governing rape kit testing.
“Survivors need to know they’re supported,” said Sharon Daugherty who is one of those survivors. “It’s a very devastating feeling to think that rape kits are just sitting and that the process is being held up.”
A 2015 report found a backlog of 13,000 untested rape kits in the state. This new law aims to not only clear that backlog, but make sure nothing like that happens again.
“They need to be heard supported and believed,” said Daugherty. “And have action taken on their behalf.”
The new law gives law enforcement agencies 30 days to turn over sexual assault kits to crime labs. The crime labs have will now have 120 days to test the kit and run the DNA.
“I was very concerned about the 120-day turnaround time,” said Lesley Perrone, the director of the Indian River Crime Lab in Fort Pierce.
The law went into effect Friday, but Perrone says it may actually be five years until her smaller crime lab can meet those deadlines.
“We will be having to ask our agencies to contribute more so that we can address this issue,” said Perrone.
Perrone says her lab doesn’t have the resources or the funding to meet these new guidelines while still managing the other cases they have
“We do also work homicides, property crimes, things of that nature,” said Perrone.
She has already requested two additional DNA analyst and has changed submission policies. But Perrone says even implementing all of that will take time. “We will do our best to meet that timeline. We will not be able to meet it in the very beginning.”
The governor also set aside about $10 million to help clear up the current rape kit backlog across the state.