WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that over half of the sexual assault kits that were left backlogged in evidence lockers have been tested or are in the process of being tested.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Stein and Republican lawmakers shared the update on an effort that began in 2019 to test more than 16,000 kits and eliminate the backlog.
More than 1,000 of the kits had a strong enough DNA profile to be uploaded to the national database and 45 percent had a match. Stein says this has given many hot leads to several cold cases, leading to 40 arrests so far.
The Department of Justice is now asking for one-time funding of $9 million to outsource tests older than 2018.
If the funding is approved by the General Assembly, Stein anticipates that all eligible kits will have been examined by May of 2023, eliminating the backlog entirely.
“To the victims, we want them to know that we care about what happened to them and that we will do everything in our power to deliver justice for them,” Stein said. “To the rapists and criminals, no matter how long ago you committed your crime we will not stop coming for you.”
Chelsea Croom, Program Manager for the Coastal Horizons Rape Crisis Center, says this statement from Stein is incredibly powerful to hear.
“Myself and a lot of people in this community and throughout the country have been doing a lot of work for survivors to make them feel supported,” Croom said. “That’s what we’re here for, that’s what Rape Crisis is here for, but to hear that places outside of places like us are supporting them, I mean t’s just, it’s so uplifting. It gives me hope in the job that I’m doing.”
Croom says the backlog of kits could have been a deterrent for victims to report what happened to them because they may have felt justice would never be served if their kit was just going to be placed with the others that dated back several decades, waiting to be tested.
Now, the efforts from the state are bringing hope to these victims as they make the decision to go through a difficult process.
“It’s still going to be a hard thing to go through, but if they feel like they’re being supported then they will feel better about moving forward with the process, no matter how difficult it is,” Croom said. “I think it’s just going to give them a little bit more power, make them feel a little bit more in control.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis due to sexual assault or abuse, call (910) 392-7460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a counselor.