If Rape is a Crime, Why Can’t the U.S. Tackle the Rape Kit Backlog?

Michelle Bowdler’s new book “Is Rape a Crime?” investigates why the justice system so often fails to treat rape as a crime.

“The hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits existed because hundreds of thousands of individual victims agreed to submit to an exam consisting of head and pubic hair combing; vaginal, anal, and oral swabbing; retrieval of saliva, blood, and fingernail clippings—evidence taken carefully under the bright light of an emergency room by strangers following a violation that defines vulnerability. The victims endured this examination for a reason; they wanted justice. Instead, their bodies and the evidence taken from them were treated like useless trash.”

“Referring to hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits as a ‘backlog’ of evidence is a misnomer if there was never intent to test them in the first place.”

Bodies on Backlog

After Helena was released, she had a 13-day wait until more evidence turned up—her car, still covered in the dusty outline from where her body was plastered to the hood during her assault. After the police dispatched to handle her case had fulfilled their required duties, Helena waited again, this time for 13 years.

Ending the Rape Kit Backlog: What’s the Price of a Survivor’s Peace of Mind?

A nationwide investigation spearheaded by USA Today has found that at least 70,000 rape kits sit untested in laboratories around the country. While Detroit and other cities have made headlines for their determination to clear rape kit backlogs (in Detroit’s case, only after the Department of Justice found its police department guilty of “negative, victim-blaming beliefs” in 2008) this […]

NEWSFLASH: Biden Announces Millions to End Rape Kit Backlog

Vice President Joe Biden joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland Monday to announce that $41 million in funding from the federal budget will be used to test backlogged rape kits sitting in storage around the country. There are approximately 400,000 untested rape kits gathering dust in U.S. crime labs. (That’s considered a conservative estimate since police […]

Detroit Fundraises to Test Rape Kits

In an unprecedented initiative, the cash-strapped city of Detroit has partnered with two nonprofits to raise $10 million for testing its huge backlog of rape kits and conducting further investigations of rape cases. Five years ago, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office discovered 11,000 untested kits in a Detroit police storage unit, a few of which […]