By Shereen Siewert
Victims of sexual assault have a new way to track evidence in their cases, after Attorney General Brad Schimel and a sexual assault prevention group launched a new initiative this week.
The By Your Side Campaign, announced Monday, aims to reach out to all sexual assault victims who had an evidence kit collected following an exam by a sexual assault nurse. The campaign is a partnership between the DOJ and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA).
In 2014, about 6,300 sexual assault evidence kits on Wisconsin evidence room shelves remained untested, officials say. But in September 2015, the state Department of Justice received $4 million in federal grants to speed up the testing process
Even with the grant dollars in place, progress has been slow. Attorney General Brad Schimel said this week that so far, a “few hundred” of the kits have been tested, leaving a backlog of thousands. But Jane Graham Jennings, executive director of The Women’s Community, says the current backlog exists largely because of the complexities of collecting and sharing data while respecting victims’ rights.
Victims can go to ByYourSideWI.org to explore options for DNA testing. The site also lists resources to help guide victims through the process. In Marathon County, that resource is The Women’s Community.