While reading through April’s edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, I came across an article that dealt with a very uncomfortable and heartbreaking topic- rape. But the article wasn’t discussing how uncomfortable or heartbreaking rape can be to a person, but instead what happens after the crime is committed- and it was shocking. As a victim of sexual abuse myself, I know all about rape kits and the physical evidence police need off your body once you come forward. I was young at the time, but I remember the doctor scouring my entire body and feeling like I was some sort of science project. Once the evidence was sent it, it was matched to my attacker- which was a person I knew and could identify. But not all cases are so tidy. There are many instances where woman are attacked in parking lots, while jogging, or even in the library- having no idea who their attacker is or how to identify them. So they compile a rape kit- or a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kit. Doctors can collect DNA off the victim’s body (hair, bodily fluids, etc.) and test it to see if they can find any matches. Cosmo uncovered an unsettling fact about these rape kits- that an extreme number of kits have gone untested nationwide for more than a decade. How can this be happening? Victims suffer through the abuse, then through coming forward, telling their story, and being subjected to a rape kit, all for nothing. The answer boils down to money. Cosmo reports that the testing of a rape kit can cost anywhere between $1000-$1500, so there are too many cases where the rape kits never make it out of the police station or never get tested at a forensic lab.
I find this to be devastating news. The point of a SAFE kit is to help the victim- to hopefully find the perpetrator and get justice for their crimes. And to keep these criminals off the streets, where they could attack again- rape is more of a serial crime than just a onetime occurrence. Cosmo does say that Congress had been giving funds to police departments since 2000 to try to help pay for testing, but the backlog is still accumulating. So what can we do to help? Visit endthebacklog.org to learn how you can help. This is a great website that was created by Joyful Heart Foundation. You can make a donation through the website, learn how to contact state legislators, and help spread the word. Rape kit testing needs to be a priority.
Photo Credit: Human Right Watch, backlog in Los Angeles City and County