Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act passes GA House, Senate - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act passes GA House, Senate

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

The Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act received a unanimous 'yes' vote in the Georgia House late Thursday night, moving the embattled piece of legislation to the governor's desk.

The law will speed the transfer of forensic evidence from local law enforcement to state investigators, as well as require more detailed record keeping of forensic evidence by local police.

The bill was originally drafted in the House, but blocked after going to the Senate Health and Human Services committee. So a new version, Senate Bill 304 gave lawmakers a second chance to move this piece of legislation forward.

Georgia Senator Ben Watson said the chairman of the Health and Human Services committee, a committee he's on, questioned the necessity of passing the original version of Senate Bill 304.
But advocates of victims of sexual violence and victims themselves encouraged lawmakers to take another look, and they did.

"You know, unfortunately perception and reality are not always the same. And to say 'no' to doing rape kits that had been on the shelves for twenty five years was just not doable," said Sen. Watson.

Senate Bill 304, or the Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act, passed both the House and Senate without a problem, and now goes to Governor Nathan Deal's desk for his consideration.

"We are grateful for this victory, because that is exactly what it is. It is a victory for victims, and it is a victory for people who will not become a victim as a result of it," said Kesha Gibson-Carter.

Gibson-Carter, Director of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire, said the measure will give victims confidence that their cases will be taken seriously and be processed faster.

"We now want to make sure that the kits that contain the forensics evidence are not going to collect dust on the shelves of the GBI," Gibson-Carter said, adding she and other advocates would continue to watch the process to make sure that doesn't happen.

WTOC asked Senator Watson about the possibility that requiring local law enforcement to submit rape kits to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation within 30 days, would exacerbate any existing back log. He said he didn't think so.

Watson explained, "Vernon Keenan, the director, has made sure that it's a top priority. And I think he will do...he's been a good leader there. Been there for years. And has done a good job."

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