North Carolina women who file sexual assault complaints must wait 18 months for rape-kit results to return from the state’s laboratory, a Durham homicide detective told a crowd this afternoon at a community luncheon.

Durham police process about 600 sexual assault cases per year, Investigator Quincey Tait told the guests at the luncheon, held at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church in East Durham, and sponsored by the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham.

The event was organized to bring awareness to DPD’s new “Start by Believing” campaign, designed by the organization End Violence Against Women International. The campaign offers support to rape victims and addresses the need to change societal attitudes toward sexual assault.

Tait discussed the arduous task women face when reporting their rape; upon their admission into a hospital, they must repeat painful details to at least four different parties in the course of two hours: a charge nurse, a patrol officer, a victim advocate, and a police investigator.

At the East Durham community gathering, Tait led a Q&A session, during which one audience member asked how long it took for the police to receive rape kit results. Tait responded that it took 18 months. The delay, she said, was partly attributable to a backlog in the state’s laboratory.

Some audience members were concerned by the notion that a wrongly accused suspect could wait in jail for 18 months before a rape kit cleared him. Others worried about the financial drawbacks to delays.

“The whole process is costing this community an enormous amount of money to wait,” said coalition director Marcia Owen.

The Durham Police Department was the first organization in the state to sign up for the Start by Believing campaign, said Tait.