If your mother, your daughter, your sister or your friend was a victim of rape, would you sit back while the evidence that could lead to their attacker collected dust on a shelf? Probably not. But this is the reality that victims face when rape kits are not processed, and we need your help to put an end to the rape kit backlog.
Despite the fact that Congresswoman Maloney secured passage of the Debbie Smith Act in 2004 for the purpose of eliminating the backlog, an estimated 400,000 rape kits remain on shelves of police departments around the country collecting dust. This is absolutely unacceptable.
“Because of this important legislation, women are safer throughout our country. After testing, 11,000 rape kits, Detroit identified 46 serial rapists. This would not have happened without the Debbie Smith Act. Clearly, funding is critical. If we don’t put the resources behind proven crime reduction efforts like this, we send a message that rape is not a crime worth convicting.” – NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio (at January 2014 press conference calling for the re-authorization of the Debbie Smith Act.)
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Untested Rape Kits
• A five month CBS News Investigation provided alarming findings – over 16 states and cities nationwide never even sent collected rape kits to crime labs for testing.
• For example, the Memphis Police Department is holding more than 12,000 DNA rape kits from cases dating as far back as the 1980s, even though the statute of limitations for rape in Tennessee is only 8 to 15 years (depending on the facts of the case). This means that it may be too late to even prosecute the rapists associated with these kits.
• More than 1,000 forgotten rape kits were found in Detroit Police storage less than two years ago.
• As of 2013, an estimated 2,000 rape kits remained untested at Oakland police departments.
Rape is a crime with one of the highest recidivism rates, meaning that every rapist is likely to attack again. If we are serious about ending the epidemic of rape in the country, ending the backlog is critical.
“One city’s backlog is a threat to public safety in all communities across the country.”
– Sarah Tofte, Joyful Heart Foundation (an organization that advocates for rape survivors)
Read more here: Despite DNA, the Rapist Got Away – New York Times
Rape Kit Reform
After NYC adopted the policy of testing every rape kit booked into evidence, the arrest rate for reported rapes increased from 40 to 70 percent. NYC cleared its backlog of more than 17,000 untested rape kits just over a decade ago. Still, 400,000 kits across the country are collecting dust instead of being used to stop rapists. Take action to make sure that cities and states across the country follow New York City’s lead.
Still, progress is moving at too slow a pace. There has been a decline in the historical 6,132 untested kits discovered in California a couple of years ago however, the numbers remain high while the clock is ticking on the statute of limitations for this crime.
“It’s frustrating to know that a rapist could be walking free and a victim who suffered is further disrespected because a vital piece of evidence went untested.”
– California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino
Every single untested kit is a missed opportunity for justice and an open opportunity for an offender to rape again.
What is the backlog in your community?