The rape kit backlog has received quite a bit of press in the past weeks thanks to a great article by Brandi Grissom in The Texas Tribune. Grissom reports that about 16,000 kits are sitting untested in Houston. Over in San Antonio, the backlog is estimated to be between 5,200 and 11,500 kits, according to several CBS reports, while in Dallas, KDAF reported that officials estimated that the number of untested kits there could be as high as 10,000.
From The Texas Tribune article:
In police departments across Texas, tens of thousands of rape kits have been sitting on the shelves of property storage rooms for years, the result of strained budgets, overworked crime labs and a law enforcement philosophy that rape kits are primarily useful as evidence if a stranger committed the assault.
Officials in Texas have been struggling to find short-term solutions to its backlog for years. In 2009, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported that the Dallas PD decided to suspend testing of cold-case rape kits to prioritize testing more recent cases. About a year ago, the Houston Chronicle reported that the City Council in Houston had approved $4.2 in contracts with four private labs to help the struggling HDP crime lab. In November 2009, the San Antonio More >
As many of you have heard, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced this week that they have ended their “historic” rape kit backlog of 6,132 kits, resulting in at least 300 new arrests. This is a significant milestone in the work to reform rape kit testing in Los Angeles city.
For the past three years, advocates in Los Angeles and nationally have worked together to end the LAPD’s rape kit backlog, and the news this week that the historic backlog has been tested is an accomplishment that sets up Los Angeles to be considered a model for the rest of the country.
Joyful Heart is pleased to have played a part in this reform along with a number of local and national organizations including Peace Over Violence, the UCLA-Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center and Human Rights Watch. Last year, we placed calls and wrote letters to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to encourage them to find the resources necessary to outsource all of the testing of the historic backlog, increase crime lab staff, and better track rape kit testing results. When Law & Order: SVU featured the rape kit backlog in the third episode of its twelfth More >
In 2010, the Joyful Heart Foundation‘s second issue of Reunion featured a story of a young girl whose big voice is matched only by her bigger heart. Ella Burnside was given an assignment from her English teacher: write about something in the world you want to change, and then do it. Ella wrote about ending sexual violence and domestic abuse, and then went about raising over $10,000 for Joyful Heart. She was in tenth grade.
This school year, Ella attended a youth government conference in her home state of Kentucky. There, she and several of her classmates presented a bill to the mock legislature calling for the elimination of Kentucky’s backlog of untested rape kits and proposing a timeline to get the kits tested. Several news sources, including CBS and WLKY, have reported on the state crime lab’s backlog of hundreds of kits.
As Ella reported to us, her bill sailed through the mock House and Senate, with approximately 95% of her peers voting for it. “I am confident that they truly understood the importance of eliminating KY’s backlog and that many of them were immensely More >
We came across this article on nola.com about the New Orleans Police Department’s efforts to resolve its backlog of untested rape kits. Using time and resources donated by the Louisiana State Police, Marshall University and the National Institute of Justice, the department is looking to make rape kit testing a priority, NOLA reports.
From the article:
About 60 kits per month will be sent to the State Police lab and then will be forwarded later to Marshall University for analysis.
The Police Department’s crime lab, which was decimated in Katrina, has a backlog of several years in testing the evidence kits. This sort of evidence is crucial to investigations.
Committing time and resources to testing sexual assault evidence is crucial to resolving backlogs like this one. In November, CBS reported that the Louisiana state lab was struggling to work its way through a backlog of hundreds of kits, some as old as eight years.
Hopefully the extra help and renewed energy will make a difference for New Orleans.
Read the full article here, and continue to check back here for more updates from across the country.
Armen Keteyian and Laura Strickler’s five month investigation into untested rape kits nationwide uncovering 20,000 untested rape kits in various cities won the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, as well as the 2010 Gracie Award for Best Investigative Program.
Sarah Tofte: How did you get interested in journalism as a career?
Laura Strickler: In 2003, I was working on a masters in public administration, but I dropped out, and started doing a documentary film program and was completely taken with it. It was much more interesting than statistics.
Long story short, I started in public radio, and joined the CBS News investigative unit in 2006.
ST: How did you get interested in the story of the rape kit backlog?
LS: My colleague had just finished a brilliant story that looked at veteran suicides across the country, and it was a large data project that required my colleague to call every single state’s coroner’s office to figure out how many veterans’ deaths were classified as suicides. It was a very significant story since it was at the beginning of the national discussion about what could be done to More >