While the majority of sex crimes go unreported, according to U.S. Department of Justice data, victims who pursue criminal charges often spend years waiting for justice. In Washington, thousands of survivors who underwent sexual assault forensic examinations to provide police with evidence kits remain in limbo, not knowing what became of their kits and hoping a new state tracking system will provide a sense of closure and justice.
Category Archives: Backlogs
In 2015, President Barack Obama proposed the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), a $41 million fund intended to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits sitting in storage around the US. As NPQ reported, the rape kit backlog is a priority for the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is privately funded. Fourteen years after Joyful Heart was founded and three years into the US Department of Justice’s SAKI grants program, what’s the status of the backlog?
Former Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill from state lawmakers that requires the creation of a more formal, electronic tracking system. The new law also will allow victims to access the system to track the status of their forensic evidence.
The process is straightforward — or as straightforward as anything can be at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Texans renewing or applying for a driver’s license have the option to check a box and donate funds to help officials test backlogged rape kits in police departments across the state.
Five months in, the crowdfunding law has raised $250,000, with individual donations ranging from $1 to $5,000.
HOUSTON – The Houston Forensic Science Center is working to eliminate their backlog by temporary utilizing a private laboratory for DNA testing.
The HFSC is planning to send most incoming DNA work to a private lab over about 10 months as it eliminates a backlog and builds a sustainable process that helps avoid future backlogs.
“(Ohio) has done a remarkable job,” said Representative Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, one of the lead lawmakers working on Washington’s ongoing backlog. “They started a number of years ago, and I think they’re a leader in the nation that we really need to learn from.”
A state law that crowdfunds money for rape kit testing has collected almost a quarter-million dollars in its first five months, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Victoria Neave.
The state has long been faced with a backlog of untested rape kits, which are gathered by police through invasive, hours-long exams of sexual assault victims and cost anywhere between $500 and $2,000 to test. The most recent data made available by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows a backlog of more than 3,500 untested rape kits statewide — meaning there may be even more untested kits in Texas today.
A new Missouri law orders the state to create guidelines for testing, processing and storing rape kits, which collect DNA evidence from victims of sexual violence.
After a person is sexually assaulted, investigators can submit DNA evidence in the form of a sexual-assault kit, which police run through a database to help find the perpetrator.
TAYLORSVILLE — More than eight years after forensic nurses collected evidence in her sexual assault case, Alyson Ainscough found out the rape kit had not been sent to Utah’s crime lab.
“It was a kit that had sat on the shelf and fallen through the cracks,” Ainscough said. She learned the 2007 kit had been forgotten when she called to ask about its status — a conversation she believes led police to forward it for forensic analysis.
On Wednesday, public safety managers announced a new tool they hope will help prevent similar experiences for others who report sexual assaults. A recently created website allows victims to track the progress of DNA evidence in their cases much like they would follow the path of a mail delivery online.
ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — A backlog of nearly 3,500 completed sexual assault evidence kits could be resolved in two years with $2.75 million added to the state’s capital budget by the Alaska Legislature before it adjourned earlier this month.
The evidence in the test kits — tissue swabs, clothing, hair, skin, blood — were gathered by investigators around Alaska according to state Department of Public Safety officials. But the kits remained in the custody of troopers and local departments — 53 percent are held by Anchorage police. The non-analyzed kits came off the state’s priority list because they weren’t needed to prosecute criminals, or there wasn’t the money budgeted to run the tests.
MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) – The last batch of unsubmitted sexual assault kits has been sent to labs for testing, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced Tuesday.
Schimel says testing will be complete by the end of 2018. Clearing the backlog of cases was the mission of Wisconsin’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
In Minnesota’s most ambitious effort to process untested rape kits, the Duluth Police Department has eliminated its entire backlog and submitted 415 kits for laboratory testing, a step that could open the door to justice for scores of sexual assault victims.
SEATTLE — Up to 10,000 rape kits in Washington state have yet to be tested and it’s left a lot of survivors in limbo.
“It is impossible to navigate this system,” said Leah Griffin, who was raped in 2014.
“I assumed that when I went through the six-hour procedure to have a rape kit done that it would result in an investigation, that police would test that kit and look at the evidence,” she said. “I didn’t find out until months later that they had no intention of testing my rape kit.”
Griffin spent those months futilely waiting by the phone for investigators to follow up. A year later, she helped pass state legislation that mandated testing rape kits.
Now it’s her hope that a new website tracking rape kits will give victims information that she never had.
You don’t matter.
That’s the message every survivor hears loud and clear when a rape kit goes untested. Behind every kit is a person ― usually a woman ― who has been brutalized in the most intimate of ways. And yet there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits currently sitting in police storage across the country.
So, how did we get here?
That’s the question actress and activist Mariska Hargitay answers in her new HBO documentary “I Am Evidence,” set to air April 16.
Police have worked through a chunk of untested rape kits in less than a year since state legislators passed a law to address a massive backlog.
According to data submitted Tuesday by the Metropolitan Police Department to lawmakers, 4,750 sexual assault kits in Southern Nevada remain untested. That is down from 6,473 untested kits as of December 2014 — the most recent figure available.