Jefferson County is reforming how it responds to sexual assault
Jefferson County, Ala. —
Jefferson county is reforming how it handles sexual assaults. Right now, the county does not know how many rape kits have not been submitted to a lab, for testing. Michele Yarbrough in the District Attorney's Office says this is because many places still do their inventory on paper and there are 27 jurisdictions within the county.
Now the DA's office has received a $1.5 million SAKI grant or sexual assault kit initiative. This money will help them do inventory on rape kits across the county and create a database to keep all the information. The database will be easily accessible by investigators, prosecutors and advocates.
The money will also go towards hiring advocates to help sexual assault survivors navigate the criminal justice system.
Yarbrough says ALEA statistics show since 1998 more than 5,700 rapes have been reported in Jefferson County. That's 21% of all rapes in the state. Aryn Sedgwick, the SAKI Program Director, says once the changes are made because of the grant money the number of reported rapes may increase at first. "Rape is the most under reported crime so we're hoping by providing the resources we are doing outreach to people and making sure people know that it is safe to report this crime. So we want to see the numbers go up so we actually have a more accurate number of the people being assaulted."
She hopes with the number of reported assaults increasing it will also increase the number of people who get help and heal from the assault.
Yarbrough says right now only 1 in every 10 people who experience sexual assault bring a case forward for prosecution.