After a brutal rape, an Orlando woman lived in fear for 30 years not knowing her rapist had already been put in jail. A bill hopes to keep that from happening again in Florida.
The bill requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create and maintain a statewide database to track the location, processing status and storage of sexual assault evidence kits, also called rape kits. The rape kits would be tracked from evidence collection throughout the criminal justice process. Both law enforcement and victims would be able to track the kits.
The bill is named Gail’s Law after Gail Gardner who was raped at knifepoint, with her son nearby, when an intruder broke into her home in 1988.
It wasn’t until 2019 that Gardener found out her rapist had been apprehended years before and was already in prison serving a life sentence. Gardner and law enforcement did not know because her rape kit was sitting untested on a shelf.
Gardner describes the time before she knew her rapist had been caught by police.
“For years I could not sleep through the night without getting out of bed looking through the blinds,” Gardener said.
Gardner has been working with Orlando Sen. Linda Stewart, who sponsored the bill, to pass legislation to keep the same thing from happening to other victims.
“Survivors like me, they never completely say that they got over it. But there can be some closure by making sure generations to come will be left with one of many legacies by passing this law,” Gardener said.