The state has launched a new program to address the 6,000 untested rape kits in Wisconsin that's entirely victim-centered.
It's called By Your Side, and it gives survivors of sexual assault the choice to call or go online and request that their rape kit be tested for DNA evidence.
It's a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, along with the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Response Team.
The state received $4 million in grant funding to address untested kits and will not test any kits going forward unless they have the victim's consent.
Attorney General Brad Schimel says they hope this new program will encourage survivors to reach out to potentially help link their offender with other crimes.
"It's an enormous problem," said Schimel. "I have daughters, but for parents of sons, they should know their sons could be victims of sexual violence too. We have to take it seriously, we have to hold people accountable, but in the process we can't keep doing things that scare survivors from coming forward."
He says current state statistics show that one in four university students said they were a victim of sexual assault.
He also said many of the untested kits are cases where the identity of the perpetrator was known and therefore DNA testing wasn't needed for a conviction. But those same kits could link the offender to other crimes.
Through this campaign, survivors will also be connected with support services.
Schimel says some of the grant money was used to hire investigators and a prosecutor, and set up the campaign.
The rest will go toward kits that cost about $600 each to test.
Any survivor who had a kit collected and would like it tested or doesn't know if it was tested can call 1-800-446-6564 or visit ByYourSideWI.org.
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