In the United States, government estimates suggest that the majority of rapes committed go unreported. Of those that are reported, the majority go unsolved or unprosecuted. These crimes aren’t always without evidence or suspects or leads. In many cases, victims submit to sexual assault evidence collection (SAEC), and in thousands of instances, these crucial clues in possible assault prosecutions, most commonly referred to as “rape kits,” are left without further analysis, the perpetrators free to live a life without threat of consequence. In some places, the number or status of these untested kits isn’t even tracked.
For more than two years, MuckRock, through our Counting the Uncounted project, has been helping individuals learn more about the backlog of SAEC kits in their own towns. Hundreds of people have responded to the call to bring local accountability to the unprocessed kits sitting in or destroyed by their local law enforcement agencies. And submissions to our feedback form have helped to bring real attention and change.
Help MuckRock understand the extent of the rape kit backlog
In Juneau, Alaska, for example, the majority of the city’s collected rape kits had gone untested, a fact highlighted by MuckRock reporter Vanessa Nason after a member of our audience suggested we look into the capital of the state with the nation’s highest rates of rape. The Juneau Empire followed up on the story, reporting that the Juneau Police Department estimated it would take $300,000 to address the issue but that it hadn’t attempted to get any additional funding. As part of the state’s next budget cycle, legislators added nearly $3 million to address rape kit backlogs around the state.
Yesterday, the issue of America’s untested rape kits made its first appearance of the 2020 presidential election conversation when Democratic hopeful Senator Kamala Harris announced a plan to address the more than 200,000 untested kits in the United States through additional funding. There remains no national standard for addressing the backlog, though states have made attempts to prioritize some funding to the effort. In New York, hundreds were arrested after the state began systematically addressing its 100 thousands untested kits.
You can browse the map below to find data released from our user-generated requests.
Then, be sure to add other towns and counties to the form below to help MuckRock learn more about the extent of the issue where you live and join the hundreds of others looking for more accountability for the victims of sexual assault.
Image via Cuyahoga County Prosecutor