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June 14, 2024 10:32 pm

Local News

Attorney General Josh Stein Announces North Carolina Cleared Decades-Old Rape Kit Backlog

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In what marks a major milestone in the quest for justice for victims of sexual assault, Attorney General Josh Stein has announced that North Carolina has officially cleared its backlog of untested rape kits that dated back to the 1990s. 

The backlog, which had ballooned to over 16,000 untested rape kits according to a report published shortly after Stein took office in 2017, had been sitting on shelves for years due to limited capacity at the state’s crime lab. For thousands of victims, it meant that a key piece of evidence that could be used to identify and arrest attackers was unable to be utilized. 

Stein had prioritized clearing the backlog since taking office in 2017, and had coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice to identify the number of untested kits, before working with the state legislature and local law enforcement to pass the bipartisan Survivor Act in 2019 that established a streamlined process for handling and testing rape kits to prevent another backlog from forming in the future.   

That law provided $6 million to help clear the backlog and put protocols in place that directed local law enforcement agencies to make timely submissions of evidence to labs, created a system to submit DNA evidence into the national CODIS database, and mandated that hospitals transfer any rape kits to law enforcement within 48 hours, who then have 45 days to send them to crime labs. 

Since 2019, when the effort began, nearly 12,000 rape kits have been tested. This has resulted in over 2,700 DNA matches with existing offenders and led to at least 114 arrests. 

At a press conference announcing the backlog had been cleared, one of those DNA matches was highlighted. Miss Linda, a survivor of a 1992 sexual assault, saw her rape kit tested and come back with a DNA hit on a man already in jail, who will now serve a longer sentence as a result of the tested kit. 
The North Carolina Department of Justice has created a website to update the public on the testing of kits, as well as provide resources for survivors on their website.