HALES CORNERS — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and a sexual assault prevention group launched an initiative Monday to help victims track evidence in their cases.
“The last thing we want to do is further disempower a survivor of sexual assault by giving them no choice to what happens with the evidence collected from their bodies,” said Schimel.
More than 6,000 sexual assault evidence kits were sitting untested on Wisconsin shelves in 2014. The kits are sitting for a variety of reasons, including prosecutors deciding cases were too weak to warrant testing, cases were resolved without the need for testing or victims refused to cooperate with investigators. A USA Today Network investigation in 2015 found at least 70,000 untested kits nationwide.
“The Wisconsin approach is victim centered,” Schimel said.
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The Wisconsin Department of Justice received $4 million in federal grants in September 2015 to accelerate testing. USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported this past September that $2 million is earmarked for testing and the remaining $2 million for research and a public awareness campaign, but the agency was moving slowly because it was still collecting up-to-date information from local police departments on the status of the kits.
The DOJ and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the creation of the By Your Side campaign Monday. The campaign offers victims a hotline number and a website they can use to start locating their kits and explore options for testing and connect with support services.
DOJ officials said in a news release that WCASA developed the campaign using feedback from sexual assault survivors. The release doesn’t say if the campaign is funded from the 2015 federal grant. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos didn’t immediately respond to emails, and WCASA spokesman Dominic Holt said he was too busy preparing for a morning news conference in Green Bay to elaborate on the campaign.