Florida bill could give survivors power to track their sexual assault kits

Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — Next week is the final vote on a measure that would give survivors in Florida the power to track their own rape kits.

“Sometimes they come back and that’s what I was fearful of,” Gail Gardner said.

Gardner lived with that fear for three decades after being sexually assaulted in 1988 inside her home in Orlando’s Washington Shores neighborhood.

She agreed to have evidence collected through a sexual assault kit, or “rape” kit, but it mysteriously disappeared.

In 2015, our NBC-affiliate WESH 2 Investigates revealed more than a thousand kits were collecting dust in Central Florida police evidence lockers.

Florida cleared that backlog of untested kits but it wasn’t until last November that Gardner learned her alleged attacker had been identified and was in prison.

A bill titled Gail’s Law passed the House last week and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote on Monday.

It would give survivors the legal right to know where their kits are from the lab to police headquarters.

“You will have actually a means of following through to make sure you know you have done all you know to do — to bring this thing to some kind of closure,” Gardner said.

Under Gail’s Law, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would provide sexual assault survivors tracking information for their kits and would give the state up to 180 days to notify survivors if there are any results.

State Senator Linda Stewart sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

“It allows the survivors to keep track of ‘Where are you on my case? Can I relax? Am I okay? Have you found somebody?’ And I think that is the least we can ask for,” Stewart said.

The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence would have the job of developing the tracking guidelines.

“Victimization of any kind really can impact a person’s sense of control over their lives, over their physical being, over their safety. So this is another way to give them a measure of control over their lives,” Theresa Prichard with the Florida Council Against Sexual said.

If passed by the Senate, Gail’s Law heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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