RHINELANDER - A statistic revealed last week surprised many people in Wisconsin.
The state still has 6,000 rape kits waiting to be tested. That's a backlog with implications for victims and prosecutors.
Last week, state Attorney General Brad Schimel announced the "By Your Side" campaign to give more power to victims in navigating the system. Rhinelander's Tri-County Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence supports the effort.
"That's a lot of people who have been victimized that aren't having their cases or having their experiences or their stories really told through that evidence," said Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Braden Bayne-Allison.
Testing those rape kits could also put the DNA signature of more sexual predators in the system, which could help prevent future crimes.
"Having 6,000 more pieces of the puzzle might help get a few more perpetrators of sexually violent crimes off the street," Bayne-Allison said.
The "By Your Side" program also promotes victims' ability to wait up to 10 years before having their rape kit tested. Victims can also choose not to have their kit tested. If the kit is tested, however, the incident automatically gets forwarded to law enforcement, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"It's very hard to expect someone to be completely rational and completely ready to move forward with a step as large as [contacting] law enforcement within that small time frame [right after the crime]," said Bayne-Allison.
Bayne-Allison likes that the power is focused on the victims' comfort, not an insensitive legal system.
"Victims first over prosecution first," he said. "It's more about making sure that the victim's experience is as harmless as possible."
The "By Your Side" program also offers a hotline for victims to check the status of their rape kits. Victims can call 800-446-6564 or click the link below for more information.
RHINELANDER - Oneida County needs more foster care homes. Right now, there are nine licensed foster homes in the area, most of which are full according to the county's social services department.
Foster Care Coordinator Rachel Nelson says that in Oneida County there are 24 children currently living in foster homes. The department participated in a statewide foster care recruitment project last fall, and discovered just how great the need is.
RHINELANDER - A snow storm caught Hanson's Garden Village in Rhinelander off guard last weekend and collapsed a greenhouse. Now that spring weather is here, Hanson's is ready to move forward by making some adjustments. "We got by for 25 years doing what we were doing," said Hanson's Garden Village Co-owner Brent Hanson. Last weekend's spring snow storm set back Hanson's. "We thought we were ahead of schedule having that greenhouse nice and filled," said Hanson's Manager Beth Hanson.
"One bad storm and there you go. Things happen," said Brent. The storm collapsed a greenhouse holding thousands of plants. "For years we've gotten by with these lighter cheaper green houses," said Brent. "We'll be down a greenhouse for a little bit here," said Beth. Now Hanson's will only use sturdier and solid greenhouses so that collapses don't become a pattern.
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