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Testing Rape Kits: Why is there such a backlog?

We think it is important to revisit the topic of testing rape kits. Though invasive, a rape kit is an often recommended course of action after sexual assault, and can potentially help lead to prosecution of the perpetrator. However, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are not processed. If we go to the trouble of offering the service of a rape kit and have victims and survivors of sexual violence endure the invasive procedure of a rape kit, why do many rape kits not get processed? According to EndtheBacklog.org, rape kits might not be processed due to a lack of crime lab or police resources. They found that processing a rape kit can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. Another reason is detective discretion: if the perpetrator is known?  Does the police department prioritize sexual assaults? And often, does the case seem likely to move forward?

So what is being done about it? In Wayne County Michigan, the head of the prosecutor’s office raised money to test almost 11,000 unprocessed rape kits in the Detroit Police Department. How did she do it? She got support from a group of female entrepreneurs and eventually formed the organization Enough Said (Enough Sexual Assault in Detroit). Read more about it here.

What about Philadelphia? The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) has a history of working to better serve victims and survivors of sexual assault, and this includes rape kits. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is giving 32 police jurisdictions funding to process backlogged rape kits, of which Philadelphia is included. The PPD will receive almost half a million dollars to process 600 untested rape kits.

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