9 Investigates: 350 local rape victims wait longer for answers

Updated:

© 2017 Cox Media Group.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A law aimed at getting rape victims answers more quickly, is actually forcing hundreds of local victims to wait longer than they expected for justice.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray discovered a “gap” between the effort to clear a massive state backlog of rape kits, and a new law requiring new kits to be processed within 120 days. Kits that fall in the middle may take longer to process, due to a lack of dedicated funding and turnaround time requirement.

Read: 9 Investigates: Sexual assault numbers spike in Orange, Osceola counties

Florida law requires any sexual assault kit submitted after July 1, 2016, to be processed within 120 days, but that means someone assaulted even one day before the law went into place could wait much longer for answers, 9 Investigates learned.

For one woman in Daytona Beach, it’s been more than 10 months since her kit was submitted to FDLE. 

That woman, who we’re not identifying, described her lowest moment to us.

>>> Read other 9 Investigates stories <<<

“The camera was on the whole time when the cops were interviewing me, as I’m sitting there in my gown, naked,” the victim said.  “You’re already feeling vulnerable and you’re sitting there on a gurney being talked to by the cops.  I can’t even explain it.”

The woman’s kit was collected and submitted to FDLE on April 13, 2016, but to this day, the results haven’t been returned.

“Some victim’s cases right now aren’t getting resolved for several months, and we want to jump ahead of that,” FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said.

FDLE: 11,000 rape kits not tested by law enforcement agencies

Banks told 9 Investigates that the Daytona Beach woman’s kit is one of about 350 local cases not old enough to be considered part of a massive statewide backlog. The kit is also not new enough to fall under the new law which requires kits to be processed within 120 days.

“No case is more or less important than another case, but we have to work within our resource limitations and we have to follow the law,” Banks said.

State funding of $2.3 million was dedicated to clearing the more than 10,000 sexual assault kits considered part of the backlog. For victims who fall in the middle, without dedicated funding and no turnaround time requirement, it can mean a longer wait for answers.

“The law is going to work great, but they need to not forget about us who were raped before they put this law into place,” the Daytona Beach woman said.

Even when the woman’s kit is processed, she knows there’s no guarantee it will be enough to hold the man she said assaulted her accountable.

“He’s just walking free, like nothing has happened. His life is not interrupted,” she said.

FDLE’s local lab has DNA being processed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. FDLE Orlando has cut the number of kits in the described “gap” in half over the last five months.