Dozens of rape kits untested in Florence County, some damaged due to Hurricane Florence

Florence Rape Kits

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The Florence County Sheriff’s Office is among the agencies with the most untested rape kits reported to the State Law Enforcement Division.

During an investigation for the WMBF News Special “UNTESTED: The Rape Kit Crisis in the Carolinas,” WMBF News learned the sheriff’s office reported 91 untested kits to SLED.

When we requested the number of untested kits for our investigation, they reported just 27.

Through e-mail, Florence County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Mike Nunn said of the 91 kits reported to SLED untested, there was a backlog of 27 kits that weren’t tested at that time, but said they will be.

That's the number that was given to us.

He continued to say the remaining 64 kits can’t be tested because either they’re 10 years old or older, the suspect pleaded guilty or the victim didn’t want to cooperate with investigators.

Nunn also said some kits were compromised due to power loss during the recent hurricane.

Kelli Clune, a child abuse and sexual assault nurse examiner, said once evidence is collected, a rape kit must stay dry and cool.

“Some of them have biological evidence in it that need to be refrigerated. If it’s not refrigerated then you have degradation of the DNA and they can’t get a reading off of it,” Clune said. “With the hurricane there was flooding. If the kit gets wet, it produces mold and anything else that degrades the DNA."

Then there’s simply the amount of rape kits done. Clune said ER nurses and physicians aren’t usually trained to thoroughly examine a sexual assault victim.

“If they’re not specially-trained and may be unsure, they’ll say, ‘Oh we’ll get a kit just in case,’ and that actually creates some of the back log too,” Clune said.

Clune mentioned the process of collecting evidence from a victim can be just as traumatic as the rape itself.

Right now, she’s working to form a Sexual Assault Response Team that will work with different entities of the process like investigators and nurses to make it easier for the victim.

“We want to decrease the amount of negative outcomes... that they don’t develop PTSD or substance abuse,” Clune said. “The awareness is raised when you have sexual assault nurse examiners and also that people will come forth more because they know it’s not going to be as traumatic of an experience.”

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