There is a new effort is underway in the South Bay to speed up the time it takes to process what are known as “rape kits.”

They are used to gather forensic evidence from sexual assault victims. 

“We’re going to treat you with respect all along the line,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.

Chavez is talking about the sexual assault or rape kits, which can sit untested in the crime lab for as long as three months while victims wait for justice.

“We’ve got a great crime lab here,” Chavez said. “We think we can do it faster, and by doing it faster, it’s one more way to tell victims that we understand your trauma, we respect you, and we’re going to get on this as quick as we can.”

Reducing the current backlog of 200 such kits awaiting tests could mean adding three new crime lab technicians and forming a team which would test rape kits exclusively.

“We are also developing a specific policy for the crime lab that specifies priority assessment and calls for the testing of all start kits within 30 days,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky said.

It’s not just about evidence. Faster testing is seen as a way to demonstrate respect and acknowledge the trauma of the victim by making it a priority, which could mean more victims will report these crimes.

“We have got to make certain that they have every choice available, every choice possible, and if you don’t think your rape kit is going to be processed in a timely manner, your choices are removed,” YWCA rape crisis center Tanis Crosby said.

The call to action on rape kits coincides with National Denim Day. It was inspired by the overturning of a rape conviction in Italy where the court held that because a rape victim wore tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist take them off, thereby implying consent.

“We want to encourage everyone in our community, not just women, to wear denim and have a conversation with their families both about what consensual sex means, about sexual assault awareness, and about helping the victims of this horrific crime,” Chavez said.