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Bill would create system for sexual assault survivors to track rape kits

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Posted at 6:31 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 08:05:17-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill working its way through the Tennessee State Capitol would create a system where law enforcement and sexual assault victims could track the status of their rape kit.

Advocates say the proposal, called the Jim Coley Rape Survivor Protection Act, could reduce kit backlogs and increase transparency about the process.

"That's the norm right now, that if somebody comes forward to get a rape exam, they may not know what is happening for 18 months to three years with the kit or with their case," Sexual Assault Center President Rachel Freeman said. "Coming forward to get a rape exam takes a lot of courage, a lot of bravery, and the least we can offer and afford to rape victims in our state is to know what the status of their case is."

Thirty other states have enacted similar laws, and Tennessee lawmakers discussed a similar bill last session. That bill was eventually pushed off the Capitol calendar when COVID-19 surged in the state and the legislature focused its efforts on the pandemic.

"We hit the pandemic, and things unfortunately get put on the back-burner as we all know and experienced," Freeman said.

But with bipartisan support, Freeman is now hopeful that bill can make it to Governor Lee's desk.

"What this could communicate to survivors is they are heard," she said.