Giving power to those who survive sexual assault. Starting this summer, survivors in all 67 Florida counties will have access to a tool where they can track their evidence collection kit.
This comes more than seven years after WINK News and several other news organizations investigated thousands of sexual assault kits that were untested and backlogged.
Victims who complete a sexual assault kit will now receive a login to a database where they can virtually monitor and physically see where their kit is at all times.
Gail Gardner prompted a lot of change for the better in Florida. Her 1988 case is making a difference for sexual assault victims today.
“I was the face on the milk carton. That was it,” said Gardner.
Gardner was attacked, and her rape kit was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where it sat untested for 32 years.
In 2015, WINK News and many others shed light on the state’s massive backlog of untested rape kits. In 2021, FLDE passed Gail’s Law.
The law is designed to ensure no one ever has to go a year, much less 32, with no information on the progress of their rape kits.
“When a kit is collected from a survivor who reports their assault to police. There’s a barcode on that kit. Once it is scanned, it tags it a geographic location and tracks that kit through the whole criminal justice process,” said Commissioner Mark Glass.
Survivors can also control who else has access to the information. For people in Collier County, one of those people will be Eileen Wesley, the executive director of Project Help.
“Certified rape crisis centers can follow along with the victim. So, it’ll be an interesting learning tool for us,” said Wesley.
A tool aimed at giving something to those who got something taken away.
“Rape is taking the power and control away from an individual. And I think that this database might be one tool that will help give some of their power and control over how they can watch their case,” Wesley said.
“This is something I would have never known, or never had thought would ever happen,” said Gardner,
Commissioner Glass said more than 700 law enforcement and medical professionals have already been trained to use this database.