A voice for the victims: Sex assault victim advocates push for change

Sexual assault advocates are calling out government officials for a system they say "condones rape."

Travis County sexual assault victim advocates are calling out government leaders for a system they say "condones rape."

In a strongly worded letter, the co-chairs of SAART, the Austin Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team, say the lack of transparency and urgency surrounding the problems are unacceptable, and believe there needs to be more communication to right the wrongs.

Emily LeBlanc, co-chair of SAART, says the intent of the letter is to advocate for victims to have a voice in a work group the county formed.

The group is charged with investigating why there were so many problems at Austin Police Department's forensic lab dating back to March of 2016, when a lab freezer broke and it went unnoticed for days.

APD shut down the lab temporarily in June. Mold was discovered on sexual assault kits the following April.

LeBlanc wants an advocate, an attorney, or a member of her SAART team on the work group, acting as a voice for the victims. She hopes that would improve the process in the future.

"I think sometimes we lose the fact that each one of those kits aren't just evidence. It's a person's life, it's a person's story, it's a person's search for justice," she said.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore is a member of the work group and is also a member of SAART.

LeBlanc did not send the letter to Moore's office, but Moore did respond in a letter of her own sent to the Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, defending her dual roles.

Moore also stated the backlog and the issues the working group are charged with solving are two separate issues.

LeBlanc says Judge Eckhardt responded to her letter saying she and Mayor Steve Adler are taking steps to put together a council to advise the work group.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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