RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC) -- Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, along with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, announced a new multimillion dollar grant to continue sexual assault reforms Wednesday.
The $2 million grant will support system-wide enhancements to the way Virginia handles sexual assaults, from evidence collection and testing of physical evidence recovery kits, to investigation and ongoing survivor support services.
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The funds come from the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and will support the ongoing Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) project.
"When I found out we had 2,000 kits sitting on the shelves around Virginia, I made it my mission to clear out that backlog and help survivors seek justice and closure," said Attorney General Mark R. Herring. "This new investment is going to let us take those efforts to the next level, completely eliminating Virginia's backlog of untested kits once and for all and making needed upgrades throughout our response to sexual violence. Survivors are going to be met with a more informed and compassionate response, cases against perpetrators will be stronger, and every survivor will know that their Commonwealth stands with them as they seek justice and healing from these brutal crimes."
Officials said Attorney General Herring and DFS had previously obtained a $1.4 million grant for an ongoing project to test over 2,000 untested PERKs that law enforcement agencies had not submitted to DFS for testing as of June 30, 2014.
A new change in state law will ensure that kits collected on or after July 1, 2016 are properly submitted to DFS for analysis. The new grant will provide funding for the analysis of any untested kits that were collected in the gap between 2014 and the time the new law went into effect.
The Office of the Attorney General reported a statewide inventory is underway to determine how many untested kits from the two-year gap law enforcement agencies have. Once all the kits are identified, they will be submitted for analysis.
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In addition, the grant will allow the DFS to utilize a new PERK tracking system. The system will allow PERKs to be tracked at each step of the process, including their distribution as uncollected kits to the collection sites, transfer to law enforcement, submission to the laboratory for analysis and return to the law enforcement agency for storage.
The grant will also allow for the hiring of new employees to facilitate the processing of PERKs and support survivors following an assault.
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