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FOX 17 News investigates rape cases across the Midstate

Sexual assault evidence collection kit (WZTV)
Sexual assault evidence collection kit (WZTV)
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*WARNING: This story may be triggering for survivors of sexual assault*

One in six women will be raped in their lifetime, according to the Sexual Assault Center.

Some are victimized again when the system designed to get them justice fails these survivors.

Becky Griffith was kidnapped and raped five times back in 1994, and still struggles with her attack 28 years later.

“There are scents, the moment that I’m in that environment, that it recalls everything for me, and I just have to remove myself,” says Griffith.

A quick arrest and conviction of Griffith’s rapist happened thanks to her decision to have a rape kit performed.

“And I had given him my necklace as an identifying source. So, if they found him and found my necklace on him, and that was indeed on this person when he was captured,” says Griffith.

Griffith believes she’s more fortunate than most, which is why she wants to share her story.

“And I think, why do people have to do this to other people? What can we do? What role can I play? Yes, it continues to ignite me to want to make a difference,” says Griffith.

In Nashville, Metro Police have their own testing lab for rape kits.

Through a public records request, FOX 17 News learned Nashville police have a backlog of 448 kits still waiting for testing.

The average wait time is currently 30 weeks to get a Nashville Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) lab rape kit tested. It is even longer in other parts of the state.

Knoxville averages 45 weeks and it is 49 weeks at the Jackson, Tennessee lab.

FOX 17 News asked the TBI why the long wait?

A spokesperson says they don't have enough resources or staffing, but waiting for answers for months can traumatize rape survivors even more.

“It’s terribly shocking to hear the length of time it takes from getting an exam to the process being complete,” says Rachel Freeman, the President of the Sexual Assault Center.

Once those rape kits are lab tested, how often does it lead to a conviction?

None of the 12 Midstate district attorney offices FOX 17 News contacted keep those statistics.

However, the Wilson County District Attorney tells FOX 17 News he only recalls two cases of men charged with rape failing to result in a conviction.

“The least we can do as a community is to make sure the resources are there to test the kits to prosecute if we’re able to prosecute and to help seek justice,” says Freeman.

Freeman says the clinic provides around 200 rape kit tests per year, and very few even go to court.

But what Freeman does not want to see is the length of time deterring people from getting tested.

With Davidson County now putting an assistant district attorney to deal exclusively with sexual assault causes, Freeman hopes to see a greater conviction rate.

“We’re not going to decrease sexual violence or end this crime or see fewer sexual assaults if we’re not putting the resources where they need to go,” says Freeman.

In the most recent budget cycle, the TBI received funding for 20 Special Agent/Forensic Scientist positions.

In the upcoming budget, TBI will request an additional 20 positions.

The TBI director says he hopes to process all evidence in eight to 12 weeks within the next year.

While the state now has a tracking system for rape kits, there is still no requirement for specific turnaround times for those kits even though 19 other states do.

“I think the logical next step to continue to improve this process for our state is to put a time limit on the length of time it takes to get a rape kit tested,” says Freeman.

“What message would you have for survivors of rape?” asks FOX 17 News’ Amanda Chin.

“Please let someone help you, please go get professional help. Please, please, please choose to speak up for yourself, and if you can, to prosecute. It is the only way we are going to lessen this crime,” says Griffith.

“What about those who have tried to get their cases prosecuted and they weren’t able to?” asks Chin.

“Keep trying. It is daunting. But if you give up, then you'll never have this closure justice,” says Griffith.

It's a system that both survivors and advocates say still needs a lot of work.

If you or a loved one needs help, please call the Sexual Assault Center Crisis Hotline at 1-866-811-7473.

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