FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is starting a new project, trying to seek justice of victims of rape.

Beshear announced a partnership Thursday with the University of Louisville to make sure rape evidence kits do not go untested in the future. Armed with funding for new equipment and new personnel, the state crime lab is now processing a backlog of more than 3,000 untested rape kits.

They have been sitting on shelves, sometimes for years, leaving victims in limbo.

“Today's announcement is another step for securing justice for victims of sexual assault,” Beshear said.

The Attorney General’s office is providing $50,000 for a research project by U of L. Researchers will try to determine such things as why the kits were never tested and how to prevent future backlogs.

“Not necessarily placing blame on anything, just looking at some of the data reasons, some of the patterns that come out of the data that show why some of these kits may not have been submitted,” said Dr. Bradley Campbell, an assistant professor at U of L’s Department of Criminal Justice.

The information will be used to improve training for police and prosecutors and better help victims.

The goal is to raise Kentucky’s 3 percent rape conviction rate.

“I think that, hopefully, this research over time will show an increase in reporting of sexual assault, increased arrest, increased charging, increased convictions, and that will restore the victim's sense of justice,” said Gretchen Hunt, director of the Attorney General’s Office of Victims.

Beshear says the first lab results from the untested kits from Jefferson County are beginning to come in.

“And I expect, though these cases can take some time, that you will see criminal proceedings this year,” he said.

The rape kit research project is based on a similar effort in Houston, but this is the first on a state level.

“We've got to make sure there is no underlying procedural issue or any other reason that keeps even just one victim's kit from not being submitted,” Beshear said.

Kentucky and U of L plan to share the data to help other jurisdictions across the country that are dealing with the issue.

Eventually, the results of the research will be available online on a special website.

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