Lawmakers, leaders discuss solutions for sexual assault survivors after lawsuit against City of Memphis

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Lawmakers and community leaders on a local, state and national level are weighing in after a lawsuit was filed against the City of Memphis for allegedly neglecting to investigate the sexual assault of Alicia Franklin.

Franklin’s sexual assault kit sat on a shelf at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (TBI) crime lab for nearly a year after she was attacked.

Many of these leaders have expressed frustration about how long it took for Franklin’s kit to be processed and put into the national database.

Now, they’re talking about solutions to prevent this from happening to more women.

“We’re going to have to do whatever it takes to make sure we put in place where these rape kits are turned over quickly so that those who are guilty can be put in jail and protect the innocent,” said Tennessee Representative Mark White.

White and State Senator Raumesh Akbari both say additional funding for the TBI is something that should be on the table for the next legislative session.

TBI says it takes 33 to 49 weeks to process and get results from rape kits; in Franklin’s case, it took nearly a year.

Leaders say that the time frame needs to be reduced.

“It’s ridiculous, and I hope that we’re finally at this point where we will not have this issue again,” Akbari said. “We will fund these entities and perhaps even create our own crime lab at Memphis so that we can get these kits processed right away and get these folks off the street.”

Congressman Steve Cohen says he would support the federal government stepping in for third-party observation at MPD.

Cohen spearheaded funding to reduce the City of Memphis rape kit backlog from a few years ago.

He believes police had a duty to further investigate Franklin’s case.

“This has been a situation. We thought Memphis was going to be on the front lines when we got their rape kids up to date, and I think they are,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “It was something that we should’ve been proud of; and instead, some person apparently from what we can gather from the police department failed to do their job.”

This lawsuit and Franklin’s story resonate with many women and survivors of sexual assault.

Founder and CEO of SisterReach Cherisse Scott says hearing Franklin’s story angers her as an advocate.

She says Franklin’s case shows police not prioritizing Black women and their bodies.

“Black women are hesitant to come forward and say when we have been harmed,” Scott said. “Black girls are hesitant. LGBT people of color are hesitant in the city to say, ‘I have been harmed,’ because we recognize that it begins and it rises and falls with our own energy, and we’re not necessarily seeing the same amount of urgency from folks that we are to be able to trust.”

Scott also says she believes nothing can change without reciprocal relationships between leaders in our community and those who are the most vulnerable in it.

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