PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — The topic of sexual assault and harassment is becoming more widely discussed. Movements, such as the #MeToo movemen,t helped more victims of sexual assault or rape come forward. But, Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney, George Sitler, said it is still hard for these victims to come forward and begin a long legal process.
“Many times, sexual assault victims become discouraged by the delays that are inherent and long processing of biological testing,” Sitler said.
There is a bill going through the West Virginia Legislature with the purpose of changing that. House Bill 4476 aims to speed up the process of testing rape kits. It would require the examination be submitted to the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory within 30 days of being collected or as soon as possible. Sitler said this will help speed up court cases.
“We’ll definitely be able to prosecute those cases more effectively. Our office is working with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department to adhere to current law that requires all convicted felons in a certain class, violent felons, or sexual offenders, have a swab at the time of sentencing,” Sitler said.
What they currently do in Mercer County helps provide more proof in favor of the victim. Sitler did say this House Bill will help with proof even more. He said victims often do not come forward because of having obtain proof and this bill may help them feel more comfortable doing so.
“It will let them know that the people are listening and we are taking their concerns seriously. We want to hear their voices. I’m a father of three daughters and I take these crimes as seriously as they can be taken,” Sitler said.
This bill was introduced to the WV Senate on Monday Feb. 3 2020.