The Attorney General of Nevada Adam Laxalt has launched a new website to assist sexual assault victims by connecting them to much-needed resources. The website comes after nearly 8,000 backlogged and untested sexual assault kits were discovered to be in Nevada’s system.
The site chronicles the number of kits that have been inventoried, sent for testing, and completed testing, and even the DNA matched and arrests made. There is also a page that explains the backlog and how it’s being addressed. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of untested kits are housed in crime laboratories and police stations throughout the country, sometimes leaving dangerous criminals unknown to the public and survivors without justice.
In 2015, Attorney General Laxalt formed Nevada’s Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group, which consists of local investigators, prosecutors, forensic scientists, victim advocates, nurses, legislators, and other criminal justice partners who are charged with working through the backlog and testing all of the kits that have been left incomplete. Laxalt’s office has also pledged $3.68M in funding to help reduce Nevada’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits.
“This website serves as a clearinghouse for those in need of information and resources, and as a means of fulfilling our commitment to take a victim-centered approach to justice,” Laxalt said. “I hope this website will empower our survivors and connect them with support services that will ensure they receive quality and compassionate care.”
While many are praising this initiative to move forward with the testing of sexual assault kits, some are still skeptical. Laxalt has been criticized for not renouncing an endorsement from Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Some even say the website is a deflection from the controversies surrounding this decision.
Nevada Democratic Party spokeswoman Helen Kalla called the launch a “desperate attempt at damage control.” Sheriff Antinoro has been accused of more than 10 harassment or wrongful termination complaints since taking office in 2010 and is currently being sued by a former deputy.
“This failure to stand up to a predator like Antinoro sends a clear message that Laxalt will show no leadership when it comes to combating sexual harassment or violence in our state,” said Steve Sisolak, a fellow commissioner as well as gubernatorial candidate.
Laxalt spokeswoman Monica Moazez was “disheartened” by the accusations from Democrats, stating that the project has been in the works since September of 2017 when the department reserved the URL. Regardless of the attacks, Moazez said that “[o]ur crusade to seek justice for victims of sexual assault will not be deterred.”
“I think it’s a brilliant tool for sexual assault victims in our state that we really haven’t had it in past,” said Rachelle Pellissier, Executive Director of the Crisis Call Center in Reno. “What we always want to do is give an assault survivor their power back. This makes it very easy for them in a difficult time to get the resources and help they need.”
Those on the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group are pleased with the site’s launching and hope that it helps properly address these crimes in the future. The website addresses the need for justice in a way that many states have yet to provide. It provides important legislation and a description of the rights that survivors of sexual assault have. This step is important in not only testing already existing sexual assault kits but also in making sure that these sorts of cases are handled correctly in the future.
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