GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Thursday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that will require the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division to set up a tracking system for rape kits by no later than 2022.
Right now, there is no way for victims to track the evidence collected, and many don’t know if their kits have been tested.
Evelyn Mitchell began digging into the issue of backlogged rape kits about two years ago. Since then she’s been working with the Julie Valentine Center to do something about it.
“So much good has come from something so evil,” Mitchell said.
She survived a harrowing attack 40 years ago. When she was 20-years-old, she said she and her friend were walking out of a restaurant in Louisville, KY when they were abducted, thrown into a car, blindfolded, and taken to a house.
“They had taken all of our clothes , and we had been assaulted multiple times by multiple people,” Mitchell said.
They escaped the next morning.
“We thought we were going to be killed,” she said.
They sought help and had evidence collected via rape kits. Mitchell had forgotten about her rape kit until the issue of untested rape kits made its way into news headlines. That’s when she reached back out the police department in Louisville to see what had become of hers.
“I got the call and he said to me, ‘Evelyn, I’ve got some terrible news. We did find out that your kits were destroyed.’ And he gave me the date, and it was two years after the date of the assault, which was devastating,” she said.
But then, she said she thought of her two daughters, and knew she had to do something. Now, the work of Mitchell and the Julie Valentine center has come to fruition, with South Carolina taking its first step in rape kit reform with a law that requires the state law enforcement division to track rape kits.
“One of the main reasons that’s important for a victim is it gives back some control to them,” said Shauna Galloway-Williams, who is the executive director of the Julie Valentine Center.
Each kit will be given a number that victims can track online, a move that advocates say will hopefully lead to accountability.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Mitchell said. “I get very emotional about it because you know I think we all want to do something in our life that matters, and I feel like I’ve been given this gift. And I just couldn’t not do anything.”
The law does not require law enforcement to test rape kits.