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Local advocates applaud state initiative to help sexual assault victimsSubmitted: 02/07/2017

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


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.

Related Weblinks:
By Your Side

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