Rape Kit Testing – Digging through the backlog

Since at least 2009, we have been aware that police departments routinely do not process rape kits. In 2009, it was  a report noting that Los Angeles County had the largest known rape kit backlog of 12,669 untested rape kits. 

End the Backlog focuses on shining a light on the rape kit backlog. They note that the federal government estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in police and crime storage facilities.

Of late, the backlog is getting more attention. Law & Order SVU even had an episode that addressed the backlog issue on September 29, 2014. The latest news is a January 4, 2015 report from the BBC, New Hope for Rape Kit Testing Advocates. This report demonstrates what is common knowledge to people who work with sexual assault, many rapists are repeat offenders. Here are some of the facts from the BBC article:

  • Detroit: More than 750 DNA matches were found in CODIS from about 2,000 rape kits.
  • Detroit: 188 serial rapists were identified from the processed kits – they’ve committed crimes in 27 other states.
  • Detroit: Indictments – 14 dismissed by court or prosecutor; 16 guilt by jury; 1 hung jury; 7 not guilty, 44 guilty plea accepted. 60 out of 91 resulted in a conviction or a guilty plea. 
  • Cleveland: After processing 4,300 kits, police have opened more than 231 people have been indited, a third of whom had at least one previous rape conviction.  Most of the remaining cases are still being investigated.
  • Colorado – out of 150 kits tested, they had 24 matches in CODIS.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault, you have to advocate for yourself. Quite frankly, we know from the massive backlog, from the experience of disbelief of those in authority and even friends and family, that we exist in a world were rape victims are not believed, or worse they are believed but pressured to be quiet because of the status of the perpetrator. The awareness of the rape testing backlog and the results from testing create an opportunity for a sea change in attitudes. The results from Detroit alone show that rape case, when proper investigation is done, can result in convictions or guilty pleas.

One great way to become your own best advocate is to empower yourself. Understand the issues. Check out End The Backlog’s resources for survivors. Check out the resources in Washington State. One great resource is Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. If you need to hire a private attorney to represent you either through the process or with your own case, JELS may be able to help, whether through representation or assistance in finding an attorney who can represent you.