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Health

SC Legislation To Track Rape Kits Has Bipartisan Support

An example of a sexual assault kit.
Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE
An example of a sexual assault kit.

 

South Carolina is struggling with a problem that exists nationwide — a backlog of rape kits, which are part of an exam used to collect forensic evidence after a sexual assault. Over time, the kits are often lost, but a bill to create a tracking system has bipartisan support by state legislators who are hopeful it will soon become law.

The State Law Enforcement Division has about 1,330 untested kits, according to spokesman Tommy Crosby, but he said that number is likely higher because it does not include the four other labs in the state that can test kits on behalf of law enforcement. 

End the Backlog, an advocacy group aimed at drawing attention to rape kit backlogs nationwide, estimates South Carolina’s number of untested kits at around 1,800.

“In a lot of cases, like here in South Carolina, victims have no idea where the kit is," said Democratic state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. "So the rape kit tracking system is one of several efforts aimed at addressing the backlog of rape kits." 

The South Carolina House of Representatives in 2019 unanimously passed Cobb-Hunter’s legislation that would require SLED to create a tracking system for sexual assault kits. 

The measure cleared a Senate subcommittee in February, and Cobb-Hunter said she’s optimistic the full Senate will pass it. 

In North Carolina, under a system implemented in 2018, survivors can see their sexual assault kit’s status and location by plugging a serial number into an online portal. 

SLED has been in touch with North Carolina officials about how it implemented that system. 

The South Carolina legislation would also allow medical facilities that perform the forensic exams, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to track the kits’ locations and status.