Rape kit testing, needle exchange bills signed

Posted at 2:14 PM, Mar 23, 2016

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla-- Wednesday, the Governor signed a law that will speed up the testing of rape kits and better flag the DNA of repeat offenders.

Once this law goes into effect July 1, it not only puts a strict timeline on turning over and testing rape kits, but it also sets aside money to clear up the current backlog.

"I think it's a huge step," said Carol Messam-Gordon, with the Palm Beach County Victims Services.

Until now, rape kits in Florida could stay untested for years, and victims were left waiting and wondering why it was taking so long.

"Those questions are asked to us a lot of times, and now we have answers," said Messam-Gordon.

Wednesday, the Governor signed legislation that creates a 30 day deadline for police to turn over the rape kits to crime labs and a 120 day deadline for crime labs to test the evidence.

The legislation spurred from a massive backlog revealed in a report last year - 13,000 untested rape kits in Florida, nearly 1,000 of them right here in Palm Beach County.

The governor also set aside more than $10 million to test those untested kits.

Season Lagerstrom knows first hand how hard it is for a sexual assault victim to come forward.

"it's an emotional roller coaster. You're scared when you first start," said Lagerstrom.

She is a survivor of sexual abuse herself. An adopted guardian abused her as a child. While her case did not involve a rape kit, she knows the pain it takes to relive the memories in order to put a case together.

"It's your evidence. It's DNA. It's for your case your life. I feel like your entitled to know what's happening."

Season says this new law will reassure victims that their courage to come forward will not wither in a storage room.

"This is huge. Giving victims a voice. They feel like they have someone on their side," said Lagerstrom.