New rules in Hamilton County are helping police clear their shelves of untested rape kits.

But the backlog continues at the state level, prompting an advocacy group to put pressure on state lawmakers.

It's important to note, not everyone who is sexually assaulted goes to police but will still have a rape kit examination done to receive testing and be treated with medication.

In Tennessee, a rape kit is not sent off to be tested unless a survivor reports the crime to police. They are called "hold kits."

"For them, maybe it's just someone hearing their story. For them, maybe it's simply having the rape kit processed or having an advocate listen to them or get services and counseling or feel support from family and friends or even from the government, the local government that we support them as survivors," Lt. Anthony Easter said.

By law, departments across the state cannot destroy hold kits for three years in case a survivor decides they want to file a report with police.

There are more than 9,000 "evidence kits," or rape kits with police reports, waiting to be tested that sit untested in property rooms across the state of Tennessee. 

Chattanooga Police Lieutenant Anthony Easter, who oversees the city's most sensitive cases at Chattanooga's Family Justice Center, said there are zero evidence kits waiting to be sent to a crime lab -- crediting a change in state law.

"In the past we've had to work very closely with the DA's office on getting the kits sent off. We had to have a letter from them saying it was a viable case that they would consider prosecuting and we could send it off under those conditions," Easter added.

Now, those kits don't need that letter.

Easter said an officer drives a rape kit to the state crime lab well before the 60-day deadline.

"My standard is, we try to do it within the month. If not within the same week," he said.

But once the kit gets to the crime lab, the time it takes to get the results is a different story.

It's a question Laura Moore gets asked the most as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner at Partnership.

"Once it's there, it takes a while for a kit to be processed. I think the current turn around time is about 18 weeks for the crime lab. That's a while to be waiting for answers," Moore said.

Channel 3 checked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about how long it takes for the results of a rape kit to come back.

A spokesperson tells us it can take up to eight moves before a kit is tested but the timeline varies from case to case.

A department can request an expedited analysis.

The TBI has 99 untested rape kits from the Chattanooga Police Department. The oldest dating back to 16 years ago.

There are 104 from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

A campaign by the Joyful Heart Foundation is challenging states to end the backlog through legislation.

"Right now, many states don't have any kind of policy or protocol or legislation that says what should be done with a rape kit," Ilse Knecht with the Joyful Heart Foundation said.

The foundation lists Tennessee as having limited state-wide reform because the state doesn't have a tracking system or require a time frame for when the evidence should be tested.

Before the new legislation was passed, Easier said 87 kits were sitting in the property room at the Chattanooga Police Department waiting to be tested.

Grant money sent them to a private lab in Utah last year.

Easter said the DNA collected as entered into a national database and turned up six hits.

"Because of that, now we do have the lead of the possible suspect which is why we would reopen the case," he added.

Meaning DNA for those attackers match six people already in the system and could lead to a conviction.

Giving answers to those who have experienced some of the unimaginable crimes.

"I see chins lift a little, I see shoulders square back a little bit with that little bit of power given back. The courage, the determination, the perseverance, the patience. I can't imagine," Moore said.

Learn more about the End the Backlog initiative by clicking HERE