How a rape survivor helped pave the way to track rape kits more efficiently in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gail Garner will tell you herself she doesn’t use the term “victim.”

“I am a survivor, and thriver. I survived a horrific crime and I thrived because I moved forward in my life”

Gardner said she was raped in 1988 by a stranger who broke into her home. Today, about 33 years later, she stood by detectives’ sides, getting closure.

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Detectives said George Girtman, known as the Malibu rapist who is already in prison, raped Gardner and several other women in the 1980s and 1990s.

“You may ask why are we pursuing these charges; George Gurmann is already in prison for life,” Orlando Police Lt. Frank Chisari said. “We believe that the victims should have a voice. Filing these charges gives these victims the opportunity to receive justice”

Gardner’s rape kits and hundreds of others sat untested for years because of a backlog in Florida.

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That backlog finally cleared out, and kits were run through the system with new technology resulting in new charges closing cold cases such as this one.

But kits sitting untested and untracked was unacceptable to Garner.

She wanted to make a legislative change, so she sat down with Sen. Linda Stewart and shared her story.

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Then, Stewart and Garner worked together to draft a bill for the Senate, and state representatives introduced theirs in the house.

The goal, Garner said, was to “make sure no one else has what to wait over 30 years for justice.”

The bill, referred to as Gail’s Law, would create a statewide system for tracking rape kits.

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“Each rape kit will be tracked, and the survivor will be able to know and find out as much as the investigator knows when they know it,” Stewart said.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.