RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says a new law to fund testing for sexual assault kits sitting in law enforcement evidence closets will put rapists in prison and ensure a backlog never happens again.
Stein, police and sexual assault victim advocates held a news conference on Thursday at the State Crime Laboratory to praise the measure signed the day before by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Stein has been pushing for the legislation. He explained what the new law will do.
“One, to secure the funding necessary to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, once and for awhile,” Stein said. “Two, to ensure that it never develops again in the state of North Carolina.”
Wilmington advocate Amy Feath says the law, also known as “The Standing Up for Rape Victims Act of 2019”, is a victory.
“Now they’re going to have the opportunity to get justice,” Feath said.
Feath is the Executive Director of The Carousel Center, which works with children who are sexually assaulted.
An audit determined there were 15,000 untested kits located across the state as of last year. The measure includes $6 million over two years and requires police and sheriffs to submit future kits for testing within 45 days.
“It will bring justice to victims,” Stein said. “It will get dangerous, violent criminals off of our streets.”
The measure is one of four Cooper signed this week that contained otherwise popular provisions from the state budget bill that Cooper vetoed for other reasons.
“One of the things that I think really thwarts people from coming forward to even report being sexually violated is the idea that, ‘I’m going to go through this whole process and there’s not going to be an end,'” Feath said.
In the past, Feath says that was usually the case – kits sitting on shelves waiting to be tested for years, leaving victims wondering if they would ever get their attacker off the streets.
“When we test these kits, we solve crimes,” Stein said. “It will make sure that the backlog never develops again.”
Feath says this will not only get criminals off the streets, but it will help survivors get closure.
“You aren’t alone. We did believe you. Your governor believes you, and now we’re going to try to get you the justice you deserve.”
The new law is effective immediately. The law also says the State Crime Laboratory must be notified of an arrest made or conviction from the DNA testing within 15 days of that happening.