NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill that would give more power to sexual assault survivors passed in both the Tennessee House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill will make it easier for victims to report sexual assault and to prosecute the offenders.
"I think passing this legislation really communicates to victims and survivors that the state cares, sees, and hears them," said Rachel Freeman, the president and CEO of the Sexual Assault Center.
It's known as the Jim Coley Rape Survivor Protection Act. It would create a kit-tracking system for law enforcement and victims electronically.
Freeman says this provides accountability.
"It's such an essential piece to move forward seeking justice and it takes so much courage for victims to come forward and get the exam," Freeman said.
The issue came to light when after more than 12,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Memphis in 2014.
The bill will also increase storage time from three to 10 years.
"One of the women who testified for this bill is a Vanderbilt student and she was finishing up her degree didn't want to go through the justice process during school and wanted to resume at a later date and now she can," said Freeman.
Sexual assault victims can choose not to make a police report at the time the evidence is collected.
In these cases, the rape kit is tagged with a number, rather than the victim’s name.
There are still some minor differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill. Both sides are working to iron those out now – then it goes to the governor for his signature.