MADISON (WKOW) -- After spending several years tackling the issue of a backlog of untested sexual assault kits, state officials say they expect to complete testing by the end of the year.
Since November 2016, the state Department of Justice has tested 862 of nearly four-thousand kits of evidence collected after a sexual assault. The DOJ announced Monday it has contracted two labs to process the two-thousand untested kits victims have been waiting on for years.
Erin Thornley-Parisi, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center in Madison, says her organization has been closely involved in tackling the backlog, making sure those victims come first.
"When somebody has been sexually assaulted, their body and their mind has kind of been taken under control of another person, and we want to start restoring that bodily autonomy immediately, and this is a big part of that," she told 27 News. "Going through the process is going to take a big commitment and we want to make sure that the victim survivors are in the driver seat on that."
The state initially found 6,350 untested rape kits, but only 3,992 are set to be tested, for a number of reasons. Some victims choose not to have their kits tested and other cases have been solved.
Officials are asking victims to come forward if they have a kit and want it tested. A new billboard campaign is urging victims to contact Rape Crisis Center to get help navigating the system.
Thornley-Parisi believes the effort to address the problems is on the right track and she hopes the new system in place will ensure a backlog never happens again.
"I hope that this is just an experience that we've learned from and that now we have all the resources and the commitment necessary in order to process every kit," she said.
Click here if you're a victim and need resources or if you'd like to learn more about the By Your Side campaign.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, you can call the Rape Crisis Center 24 hours a day at (608) 251-7273 or visit the organization's website.