There are few crimes as destructive, traumatizing, and generally harmful to individuals and society as sexual assault. According to the National Crime Victim Survey, more than 243,000 people reported being sexually victimized during 2011 (PDF). Unfortunately, most of these offenses go unreported to police and are therefore never investigated or otherwise resolved.
Investigative report about untested rape kits in Memphis, TN
Even worse, though, far too many cases in which the victim does report the crime and does submit to a sexual assault exam go uninvestigated and unresolved. This isn’t necessarily the result of callous attitudes toward victims and their plight, although that’s a problem too. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of resources.
It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of so-called “rape kits” remain untested around the US due to a lack of funding. Each test reportedly costs in the neighborhood of $1500, an amount some cash-strapped jurisdictions are simply unable to afford.
Detroit, for example, recently discovered a cache of over 11,000 untested kits the police had stored away in a warehouse, unknown to the local prosecutor’s office. Other jurisdictions across the country have disclosed similar backlogs of untested kits, all of which leaves victims without a legitimate way to seek justice, safety, or closure.
So, despite the fact the system has some amazing technology at its disposal that could be applied to investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults, the money isn’t there to facilitate the process.
One organization that’s trying to do something about this is the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has partnered with both public and private agencies to end the backlog of untested kits by providing law enforcement with the training, funding, and other resources they need.
If you’re interested in getting involved, check out EndTheBacklog.com for more information about what you can do today to make a difference.
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