[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of sexual assault]
For those who are raped, a post-assault exam can be a long and harrowing experience. But if the rapist is to be convicted and taken off the streets, it’s crucial that a rape kit of evidence be gathered and then matched against databases to try and locate the perpetrator.
So imagine how a woman feels who has gone through the rape-kit procedure only to learn that the evidence is just sitting in a police storage facility, untested.
The issue of rape-kit backlogs has been on the feminist front burner for years now, and Congress has moved forward in providing funds to test kits. Indeed, President Obama signed the Debbie Smith Restoration Act of 2014 just a couple of weeks ago, which authorizes $151 million in grants to test unexamined DNA evidence kits. But still, too many cities have not cleared their backlogs.
The latest report from the Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by actor Mariska Hargitay, reveals four cities lagging far behind in their testing:
—Las Vegas reported 4,385 untested rape kits, with only 16 percent of kits collected from 2004 to 2014 being sent out for analysis.
—Milwaukee has a backlog of 2,655 kits, while the rest of Wisconsin has reported another 3,351 untested kits.
—Tulsa has 3,783 untested rape kits, dating from 1989 to 2011.
—Seattle reported 1,276 untested rape kits, with only 22 percent of kits collected from 2004 to 2014 being sent for analysis.
As Hargitay said in a statement,
To me, the rape kit backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard sexual assault in our society. A rape kit can bring justice, so often an integral part of a survivor’s healing. Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter.
DNA evidence is critical to stopping rapists: An estimated 91 to 95 percent of rapes are committed by serial rapists—and serial offenders commit an average of six rapes each—so stopping them after the first offense could prevent untold numbers of crimes. Testing rape kits is the first step to getting these offenders off the streets.