NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state legislature will take up a bill on Wednesday that will make it possible for law enforcement and sexual assault survivors to track the status of a rape kit, with the hope that none would go missing or untested.
Advocates and the bill sponsor say it puts emphasis on the victim – as a victim-centered, victim-friendly, and trauma-informed piece of legislation.
The bill is called the Jim Coley Rape Survivor Protection Act and would establish a number of requirements, including retrieving rape kits within seven days, shortening the TBI submission deadline to 45 days, increasing storage time from three to 10 years, and having the TBI create electronic tracking.
Rachel Freeman is the president of the Sexual Assault Center, which brought Nashville its first standalone rape exam clinic. She says this bill could give power back to victims.
“After facing this intrusive crime, so much power and control is taken away, and this is one way of our state being able to give power and control back to the victim so they can track the case and so they don’t feel quite as lost in the system,” Freeman said.
The bill would also give victims the right to have an advocate with them.
State Representative Bob Freeman, who’s working on the bill, says he’s confident the right voices have been heard to change how Tennessee handles rape kits.
“I’ve worked with all the stakeholders to make sure everybody’s views have been heard through this whole process,” he said. “This bill actually worked all the way through the House the last legislative session, and I’m just honored to pick it up and carry it again.”
About 30 other states have made laws similar to this one.