Rape Kits Go Untested Despite Federal Funding

July 17, 2015  |  

The Department of Justice Building. viaShutterstock

For a decade, the federal government has provided the funds to test a backlog of rape kits that some suspect may number into the hundreds of thousands nationwide. Despite the funding, the money is not reaching its intended target to alleviate the backlog, identify rapists, and prosecute them.

“The $1.2 billion allocated over the past decade toward addressing the nation’s DNA testing needs, including taking inventory and testing sexual assault kits, has often been spent on more general DNA testing improvements,” reports USA Today, which conducted an extensive investigation through its media network of dozens of outlets. In that time period, the paper says, one million kits have been tested. But there are at least 70,000 untested kits at 1,000 law enforcement agencies, the examination found. There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in this country, which could exponentially raise the number of untested sexual assault kits.

The article suggests that some of the money is going to things other than testing, and some of the money is going to things unrelated to solving sexual assault crimes all together.

“A 2012 congressional report found some of the money set aside for rape kit testing was instead going to polling firms and toward the purchase of cellphone equipment and payments to ‘entities of uncertain mission that employ heads of influential forensics policy advisory groups,'” it reads.

But the investigation also lays blame squarely at the feet of the Justice Department, which it says has not issued the grants to the agencies that need that money to conduct the tests. A rape kit costs $1,000 and many are languishing unused.

In addition, the 2013 Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, or SAFER Act, was established so that the Justice Department would have a hard deadline, September 7, 2014, to set up “protocols” for the “timely and effective” processing of these tests to pass along to agencies. It appears that hasn’t happened.

We reported on the efforts of Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy who went so far, with help from her office, as to raise money and negotiate discounts to deal with the thousands of untested kits in the city’s possession.

“The first 2,000 kits that were processed led to the identification of 188 serial rapists and conviction of 15 rapists,” she told us in an interview in March, illustrating the importance of tackling this problem.

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