sexual assault evidence kits
Although our reporting on the rape kit backlog is often bleak, there is some good news - lawmakers in Alaska are taking a step in the right direction by adding $2.75 million to the budget for the testing of every backlogged kit.
Vanessa Nason, who runs our “Counting the Uncounted: The Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Project,” reflects on a year spent tracking down the extent of the rape kit backlog in America.
Until recently, police in Columbus, Ohio couldn’t differentiate between rape kits and shopping carts
A public records request with the Columbus Police Department revealed that until a year ago, the department tagged rape kits in evidence as “other,” a designation also used for shopping carts and cell phones.
For the last year, we’ve been requesting data surrounding the national backlog of untested sexual assault evidence. While we still don’t know the actual number- so far more than 225,000 rape kits have been found sitting on evidence collection shelves and in hospitals from coast to coast - we have a greater understanding of the many hurdles victims and law enforcement face. There are many reasons rape kits go untested, and the lack of forensic funding continues to exacerbate the problem.
When DNA evidence can be destroyed at will by hospital officials, the lack of a statute of limitations can mean almost nothing. Giving survivors only 30 days to decide whether to press charges is an unfairly small window of time to process the traumatic event.