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How the rape kit backlog being cleared will impact survivors

The SAFE Alliance says some survivors will be relieved while others will be re-traumatized.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Police Department last week said they had cleared out backlogged rape kits, saying more than 900 kits came back with positive DNA findings. 

RELATED: Austin police to reopen rape cases after DNA results found in backlog of 900+ untested kits

The SAFE Alliance to stop abuse said it was "excited to see cases move forward in terms of the criminal justice system for sexual assault survivors."

Juliana Gonzales, senior director of sexual assault services at SAFE Alliance, said some survivors felt relieved or validated to know their kit had been tested. However, she said it can be re-traumatizing for some to revisit the events of their sexual assault.

"Some survivors are going to find out their case is too old to prosecute, and so that’s a situation in which we as a community need to figure out how we’re going to help those survivors find justice and healing since the law is not able to do so anymore.”

Gonzales said there was a 10-year statute of limitations in Texas law that says, for the most part, after 10 years, the cases can't be prosecuted. She noted a bill, House Bill 8, that was filed this legislative session could toll the statute of limitations. 

RELATED: Texas lawmakers file 'Lavinia Masters Act' to address rape kit backlog

"It could be beneficial to pass legislation that takes these circumstances into account and creates an exemption within the statute of limitations so that survivors can seek justice if their kit wasn’t tested within the statute of limitations," said Gonzales.

She said survivors had a right to be skeptical of how their cases were being handled. Gonzales said the community needed to work together to regain their trust. 

Gonzales also noted that in Texas only about 9 percent of sexual assault survivors report to law enforcement. 

The SAFE Alliance's SAFEline is always open for victims of sexual abuse, along with victims of domestic violence and child abuse. The number is (512) 267-7233.

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