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Louisiana joins 40 other states tracking rape kits

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BATON ROUGE - Rape survivors will soon be kept in the know because of a law that guarantees they be told what is happening with a key aspect of their case.

Governor John Bel Edwards signed Senate Bill 169 just as the 2023 legislative session came to a close. It assures victims of sexual assault can learn the status of their rape kits.

"The low number of convictions, the lack of responsibility on even testing the rape kit, it's not something that Louisiana can feel good about at all," State Senator Beth Mizell said. 

In 2017, the WBRZ Investigative Unit told the story of a woman from West Feliciana Parish. Her rape was classified as consensual sex after her kit was lost in the system. It took six months for the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office to give the kit to the Louisiana State Crime Lab for testing. 

"I don't know if you know what's in a rape kit. But it's not just DNA. There are pictures of my naked body with bruises," Priscilla Lefebure said in 2017.

In 2022, Louisiana had 830 rape kits in backlog. State Senator Beth Mizell hopes the new tracking system will hold officials that deal with the tests accountable. 

When the initial testing takes place, victims will be given a code. With it they can anonymously track the kits from medical facilities to law enforcement agencies. 

"This bill is going to elevate the way we handle sexual assaults between the victim, with law enforcement, and with the actual process," Mizell said.

Louisiana is joining 40 other states, including Mississippi which already track rape kits. The new law will go into effect in August. 


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