Woman’s personal trauma makes positive change for all rape survivors across New York state

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There’s a new law that will help alleged rape survivors track down their rape kits.

One woman’s personal experience and persistence to have her voice heard is part of the reason a change is taking place.

“It is such a hard thing to talk about. Something like that has happened to you,” Assm. Carrie Woerner said, D-Round Lake.

On average, 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

It’s not always easy to find the offender.

“Everyone asks the question of like, ‘why certain things happen to you?'” Lisa Hudson said, who said she is a rape survivor. “I ask myself a lot that. Like why. Why did this happen to me?'”

A new law in New York gives rape survivors the justice they deserve; They’ll be able to track their sexual offense evidence collection kits, also known as rape kits.

It’s a package of items used by healthcare professionals to collect DNA from your body and clothes. The evidence in a rape kit can be a very powerful tool to find suspects.

“There’d be a tracking number. There’d be a mechanism for a database that lists them all and makes them easy to retrieve,” Woerner said.

Democratic assemblywoman, Carrie Woerner said she wanted to be a co-sponsor of the bill after hearing Lisa Hudson’s chilling story.

Lisa said she was raped in 2007.

She said she had a frustrating experience trying to track down her kit, and a suspect was never found during a one-month investigation by state police.

“When I opened that letter from Carrie, I finally feel like I got that answer. That I know this bill wasn’t just for me. That this has happened to more than one woman. I think it still speaks volumes that we have to have a bill in place to protect a rape kit,” Hudson said. “We have to do that and I’m living proof of it.”

Hudson told state police she was raped on these old train tracks near her home in Salem, New York, as documented in the original police report and a hospital exam paper.

“It was sore to move. My bra was up. My pants were down. My sneakers were still on. I got myself together and I had to get my bearings because I really didn’t know where I was,” Hudson said.

Hudson went through all the emotions wondering what happened to her rape kit.

State police have confirmed to 13 Investigates the evidence from Hudson’s kit was tested at their facility and was forwarded for destruction once the case was closed, which is standard policy.

However, the agency said they still have Hudson’s lab results, which they said they cannot release.

“Lisa would contact my office periodically over the years, to express once again her concern. Make sure that we remembered her story,” Woerner said. “When I saw this bill was coming up for a vote on the floor, I was like, ‘omg this is what victims, like Lisa Hudson, need.'”

Now, Hudson would be able to track it and have peace of mind.

“I lived that night to tell this story, and I kept fighting so that if this happens to somebody else. No, they can’t lose your rape kit. They can’t mishandle it. If they do, there’s ways to track it,” Hudson said.

The law became effective on December 22, 2022, and a tracking system will be implemented by the end of 2023.

The Division of Criminal Justice (DCJS) is in charge of creating a tracking system for rape kits in the custody of law enforcement.

In a statement, the department said:
“The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is in the early stages of researching options and preparing for the new tracking system, which will allow survivors of sexual offenses to access information about the location of kits submitted to law enforcement through a secure electronic system. The system is expected to be fully operational by 2025.”

Woerner said she did not share Hudson’s story with anyone until 13 Investigates approached the assemblywoman about the same story Hudson told the I-Team.

Many lawmakers, like Woerner, want you to know they will make sure what you tell them is confidential.

“If you’re in that situation, reach out to your legislators because those conversations make a difference,” Woerner said.