Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


Bill to track rape kits in South Carolina passes Senate

ByPatrick Phillips|March 11, 2020 at 6:47 AM EDT - Updated March 11 at 6:47 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A bill requiring state police to set up a system to track evidence collected during sexual assault investigations received key approval in the state Senate.

Currently in South Carolina there is no system to track the evidence, called rape kits, and victims often have no idea if police have tested the evidence.

The House passed the bill to create the database last year.

The Senate version made small changes like moving the date to start the database to 2022 and shielding victim information from becoming public.

The House will either accept the changes or the two chambers will have to negotiate.

Advocacy groups, like Charleston’s People Against Rape,say the potential impacts of such a system would provide hope for survivors.

A backlog of rape kits still exists in the Palmetto State, despite more awareness and increased efforts to account for and test sexual assault evidence in recent years.

According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, 1333 criminal sexual conduct cases submitted to SLED’s forensic lab were awaiting testing as of Dec. 31, 2019.

A sexual assault kit is created by medical professionals in order to preserve any DNA evidenceof the assault, including semen, hair and saliva.

In Charleston County, if the victim wants to press charges, the kit would be picked up at the hospital by the agency investigating that case. But if a victim is not sure about pressing charges or wants more time to think about it, the kit is stored at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies say it's hard knowing the DNA in those anonymous boxes may hold the only key to catching a rapist or serial rapist.

But they do not send anonymous rape kits to SLED for testing. The sheriff’s office stores anonymous kits for at least a year while the victim decides what to do.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

Photo: WIS

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