4It has been acknowledged that our country has a rape kit crisis. Less than 25% of acute care hospitals in the United States have a certified sexual assault evidence collection staff member. But one of the largest hurdles for victims in receiving justice is the overwhelming backlog of collected rape kits that remained unprocessed due to staffing and funding deficits. After a grassroots initiated push to change all this, some positive results are making headlines.
More than two dozen states took up the Department of Justice’s grant earmarked to help clear the mounting number of unprocessed sexual assault evidence collection kits. In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Vance announced yesterday over 1,000 arrests in the past three years as a result of this effort and completed testing of over 100,000 kits. In Cuyahoga County Ohio, over 7000 kits were tested resulting in 800 indictments. Other counties are reporting similar progress in testing kits that have been sitting unprocessed for many years.
While this is progress, advocates point out that there is still a long way to go. Many of the kits had been in storage for so long that either the DNA is corrupted, the kits are lost or destroyed, or the perpetrator is identified but the statute of limitations has expired. This issue highlights gender inequality in the handling of crimes. Advocates state that those assaulted are further victimized by having to be the ones who fight for their own evidence to be processed. We still have a long way to go, but recent efforts should give us hope.