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Sexual assault victims have tool to find status of evidence

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Tim Keller, then-state auditor, holds a sexual assault evidence kit during the Rally Against Sexual Violence at Civic Plaza on April 2, 2017. An audit in 2016 uncovered more than 5,400 untested kits around the state. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

A new resource is available to help victims of sexual assault retain information regarding their sexual assault evidence kits, Albuquerque city officials and advocates announced during a news conference on Wednesday.

Any survivor of a sexual assault in New Mexico who had a kit collected from a hospital or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners clinic and made a report to their local law enforcement agency can contact the Sexual Assault Information Line at 1-866-613-SAIL (7245) to speak with victim-centered and professional staff about the status of their kit.

“It’s celebratory in the sense that we know we have a way to honor victims and to continue to make Albuquerque a safer place to live,” said Jennifer Brower, board president of the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. “With the medical examinations and forensic examinations, we enable survivors to have an opportunity to confront their abusers, not only legally, but in all those other ways as well and that takes courage.”

Survivors can also contact SAIL by email at kitinfo@abqsane.org. Information is also available online at abqsane.org.

The line is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On evening and weekends, callers will be able to leave a message and the call will be returned. An email message will also be answered during the same hours.

Teresa Garcia, a survivor of domestic abuse and assault, said survivors deserve a voice.

“They have felt unheard by law enforcement, the system itself and prosecutors,” Garcia said. “Use your voice, tell your story. Your story matters. Accountability will be upheld where finally you will not be ignored. We have been ignored for far too long. I think now with everybody using their voice and telling their story, we are being heard that this needs to be addressed. You are not alone.”

Mayor Tim Keller said authorities have sent 740 kits to laboratories for testing so far, with plans to send 200 more next week. He said he expects laboratories to complete testing of Albuquerque’s rape kit backlog by the end of 2020.

“Backlogs are a statewide problem and the Sexual Assault Information Line in Albuquerque will be available to survivors across the state to ensure they have a way to check on the status of their kit, whether it’s in Albuquerque or one of the other state laboratories,” Keller said.

Albuquerque’s kit backlog received national attention in February after NBC’s “Left Field” released a short online segment on the issue.

Keller signed an executive order in January that calls on Albuquerque Police Department and the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team to create a plan for clearing the city’s backlog.

Keller said residents can inspect text of that plan on the city’s website starting today.

As state auditor, Keller released an audit in December 2016 that uncovered more than 5,400 untested kits around the state.

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