A Staggering Number of Rape Kits - About 70,000 Nationwide - Languish Untested

Human Rights

More than 70,000 rape kits have yet to be tested at more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, according to an investigation by USA Today.

Thousands of rape victims have waited years and in some cases decades for their kits to be tested. The reasons (excuses) vary, though cost is a factor: It costs as much as $1,000 to test a kit in some municipalities, and some police departments say they simply do not have the funds to cover the expense.

In the past, attention has been focused on the backlog of rape kits in large cities, but smaller cities struggle to keep up with the demand as well. Muncie, Ind., Visalia, Calif., St. Cloud, Minn., and Green Bay, Wis., have hundreds of kits that have gone untested. USA Today also found that at least 50 major law enforcement agencies don’t even have an inventory of their rape kits, so they don’t know how many untested rape kits they have.

A staggering 44 states have no law stipulating the timeframe when a rape kit should be tested and 34 states have not conducted an inventory of their rape kits. What this means is that most states have no idea how many women are waiting to seek justice against their attackers, and of course, it also means that many of those attackers are free to attack and rape other women.

In 1993, a New York City girl was raped in an apartment building in Queens. She was hospitalized that night and a rape kit was provided. She had to wait more than a decade before it was finally tested. Her rapist, Michael J. Brown, was convicted 12 years later, in 2005.

New York City spent $12 million to have all of its kits tested at private labs and 2,000 matched profiles in DNA offender databases. Michael J. Brown was one of those hits.

Joanie Scheske had to wait 18 years before St. Louis policed called her, in 2009, to say that they caught her rapist. But this only came after evidence in a separate case, an eight-year old assault case matched her attacker’s DNA.

These stats are frightening but it is impossible to quantify the emotional toll of not knowing when your kit will be tested or when the wheels of justice will begin to turn.

"Every single one of those rape kits is a person, and (their) family and friends," Scheske said. "It's like a baby's mobile: You touch one piece and it moves all the others. It's not just one person. Everyone that their sphere of influence touches is affected by what happens to a victim."

Read the complete USA Today report here to get a comprehensive understanding of how bad the issue of abandoned rape kits is.


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