Over 11,000 rape kits (sexual assault evidence collection kit) were found unprocessed in 2009 in a Detroit Police storage facility. After only 1,600 of those kits were processed, 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists were identified. But Detroit isn’t alone! Nationwide, there are an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits. Here’s the thing–rape kits are very important and should be processed immediately. Why? Because they help identify the rapist. Sounds pretty important, no? What in the world could account for rape kits not being processed?
It’s being reported that police departments say testing evidence is expensive and they just don’t have the resources, they’re making choices about which cases they believe are worth moving forward. Wow, so this is the swift arm of justice working to allow women who suffered through sexual abuse to feel supported? These unprocessed rape kits basically show women that their rapes are barely even blips on many police departments’ radars. Luckily, the White House recently announced they’d devote $35 million in next year’s budget to grants for processing unopened kits.
Activist, “Law and Order: SVU” actress and The Joyful Heart Foundation founder, Mariska Hargitay said, “To me, this is the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes.” Hargitay has launched a project called End The Backlog to pressure cities and states to prioritize testing their kits. And thankfully, 17 states have proposed new legislation to address their rape kit backlogs.
Here’s the problem with rape kits not being processed, “One would assume that if someone endures a four-to six-hour invasive examination, that that evidence would be handled with care,” Sarah Tofte, the director of policy and advocacy for Joyful Heart, explained to ThinkProgress, “They’re making subjective judgments about whether they’re likely to get a conviction, what this rape looks like, whether the victim is credible, and what the victim’s worth to society is…Ultimately, it’s about, does this victim deserve justice?”
It’s been said that most rapists are serial rapists, therefore, processing these rape kits and identifying these rapists help in preventing future assaults. That sounds like a win-win situation. Detroit is not alone in these unprocessed rape kits–in Memphis, Tenn., alone, there are more than 12,000 untested rape kits, going back to the 1980s. In Texas, there’s about 16,000 untested rape kits. Ohio has over 3,000 unprocessed kits. SMH, this is an issue!