NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A year since the death of 34-year-old mom and teacher Eliza Fletcher sparked a statewide conversation on rape kits, processing times have improved, but not as much as victim advocates had hoped.

“We’re still not there,” said Lorraine McGuire, Sexual Assault Center vice president of community relations. “Every step we take is so small and the big step we wanted, which is to have a time limit as to how long somebody had to get a rape kit back, whether it be Metro or TBI…we didn’t get that.”

The man charged in Fletcher’s death was also charged with raping a woman in 2021, which led city and state leaders to wonder what would’ve happened had that 2021 rape kit been processed faster.

“Had we had quicker turnaround times, Cleotha Henderson would not have been on the streets to rape and murder Eliza Fletcher,” said Sen. Brent Taylor (R-Memphis) in July.

At the time of Fletcher’s abduction, it took the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Services Division 11 months on average to process rape kits, according to TBI data.

After pressure from lawmakers and a directive to hire and train 50 more forensic employees, which is a goal the agency is close to reaching, the waiting period has been cut by more than half.

The average for rape kit turnaround times in Tennessee is now four to five weeks, with Nashville having some of the fastest in the state, according to the TBI’s latest report.

Mandated quarterly reports from the TBI were also implemented in the months after Fletcher’s death. Yet, McGuire hopes state lawmakers continue to take steps toward assisting rape victims.

“I think one of the things that is frustrating is it takes a really, really terrible thing like what happened to Eliza Fletcher to get these small, incremental changes,” she said.

Once lawmakers return in January, McGuire will also advocate for it to be easier for rape victims to get victims’ compensation.

“They should be able to file for victims’ compensation without a police report if they come and receive services at a place like Sexual Assault Center, but right now that’s not the case,” McGuire explained.

She also hopes lawmakers will take steps to make it easier for victims to access rape kits in a timely fashion.

“Most people think they can go to any emergency room and get a rape kit done, and that’s not the case; they have to have specialty staff to do that,” she said. ‘I would love to see legislation where every county had to have at least one place to get a rape kit done.”

She said the Sexual Assault Center is one of a handful of places where people can get a rape kit done in Middle Tennessee.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can call the center’s 24/7 hotline at 866-811-7473.