MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and a group dedicated to preventing sexual assault launched an initiative Monday to help victims track evidence in their cases.
More than 6,000 sexual-assault evidence kits were sitting untested on Wisconsin shelves in 2014. The kits are sitting for a variety of reasons. Prosecutors, for instance, have at times found that certain cases were too weak to warrant testing, that cases were resolved without the need for testing or that victims were refusing to cooperate with investigators. A USA Today Network investigation in 2015 found at least 70,000 kits were untested nationwide.
Victim advocates have pushed for testing all the kits to establish DNA profiles that could help identify serial offenders.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice received $4 million in federal grants in September 2015 to accelerate testing. USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported this past September that $2 million is earmarked for testing and the remaining $2 million for research and a public awareness campaign, but the agency was moving slowly because it was still collecting up-to-date information from local police departments on the status of the kits.
The DOJ and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the creation of the By Your Side campaign Monday. The campaign offers victims a hotline number and a website they can use to start finding their kits and exploring options for testing and connect with support services.
DOJ officials said in a news release that WCASA developed the campaign using suggestions from sexual assault survivors. The release doesn’t say if the campaign is paid for with the federal grant from 2015. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos didn’t immediately respond to emails, and WCASA spokesman Dominic Holt said he was too busy preparing for a morning news conference in Green Bay to elaborate on the campaign.