More than 65 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victims' advocates from across the Commonwealth gathered Thursday and Friday to learn more about cases they could soon work. The two-day seminar stems from the Attorney General's efforts to test all the rape kits in the state's backlog. Now, attendees are learning how to help victims through these complicated cases.
Virginia Beach Police listened and learned alongside counterparts from across Virginia for training crucial to ending Virginia's backlog in a sensitive way.
Of the Commonwealth's newly tested kits, 57 have hit to profiles in the national DNA database, but a hit doesn't mark the end of the effort to seek justice for victims, who in some cases, have been waiting for decades.
“We want to support you and we want to support survivors through every step of this project,” Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office spearheaded these efforts, said.
Now, many of these folks have to re-investigate these cases and notify those victims of their test results.
“It can bring a lot of emotions back to the surface and it's really important that it be done in a way that minimizes the risk of additional emotional harm,” Herring explained.
To make sure investigators handle these victims delicately, they'll hear from someone who's been there. Friday, Debbie Smith, the rape victim who was part of our original investigation, will be at the seminar presented with her husband Rob, a former police officer. Her case was solved through a DNA cold hit.
“Having a survivor talk about the trauma of a sexual assault helps make sure that communities have this survivor centered approach,” Herring added.