LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The state of Arkansas is taking action to cut down on a backlog of untested rape kits. There are more than a thousand of those kits still waiting to be tested.
At this point, the state has collected at least 1,500 untested rape kits and 800 of those come from the Little Rock Police Department.
There are a number of reasons why those kits may not have been tested: There was not enough funding or personal, there wasn't a DNA database around when it happened, or there wasn't a suspect in the case.
Karla Contreras is a rape victim advocate with Center for Healing Hearts and Spirits. She's thrilled with a new law passed in the last legislative session that could potentially solve thousands of rape cases.
The law is Act 1168. It states that all hospitals and law enforcement agencies across Arkansas must send their untested rape kits to the state crime lab to be examined.
"It sends the message to victims that they are important and their case is important," Contreras said.
Kermit Channell, the State Crime Lab's executive director, is overseeing the whole operation.
"It's important for any survivor of sexual assault that their voice is heard," Channell said.
The push is to find perpetrators as well as any potential issues in the system.
"I think we have a responsibility to do a deep dive into these things and see if we have a problem," Channell said.
He says some of the rape kits could be from a decade ago or more. However, getting them tested, Contreras says, could help some victims move forward.
"It can bring closure and healing to that survivor," Contreras said.
The State Crime Lab is wanting to get all the untested rape kits processed by the end of the year.
They just started testing and it's too early to tell if they've been able to pinpoint any suspects in the rape cases.
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