Recently, there has been news of rape kit backlogs in two areas of the country: the greater Denver area in Colorado and the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona.Greater Denver Area, Colorado
On November 11, 2012, ABC CALL7 released the results of an investigation to determine the number of untested rape kits in the greater Denver area. The investigation uncovered hundreds of untested rape kits. Among the findings were that the Denver Police Department has tested only 56% of the 1,064 rape kits it has collected since 2008. The Fort Collins Police Department, about an hour north of Denver, has tested just 28%of the 243 kits it has collected since 2007. Jefferson County has tested only 36% of the 117 rape kits it has collected in the last five years.
Throughout the investigation, police officials reported that their departments believe it is unnecessary to test all rape kits. A commander with the Denver Police explained, “A lot of rape kits we end up doing are just to document the trauma and everything else that occurred.” He went on to say, “No, we don’t test 100% of the cases. Some of those we don’t want to test or don’t need to test.” While detectives decide More >
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act received unanimous support and passed out of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The bipartisan bill would provide state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession and create a national registry to help track those audits. The SAFER Act would also amend current law to require that a greater percentage of Debbi Smith Act grant money is spent directly on analyzing untested DNA evidence.
After the bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said:
“Victims of sexual assault have already gone through enough. They shouldn’t have to wait unnecessarily for justice. Today’s passage of the SAFER Act in the Judiciary Committee brings us closer to helping local law enforcement reduce backlogs of rape kits and bring criminals to justice. This bill will support those efforts and enable these agencies to stay on top of their work.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) added:
“Today we took a large step toward ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault. I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support the SAFER Act received in the Judiciary Committee and look forward to a vote on the Senate floor.”
As officials in Detroit, Michigan are beginning to test rape kits that have been sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities—some for decades—DNA evidence has already linked to multiple possible perpetrators. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has identified 21 potential serial rapists from the first 153 kits that the crime lab tested and entered into CODIS, the national DNA database, according to news reports.
These kits are part of an initial wave of 200 kits that have been sent for testing under the National Institute of Justice’s grant to address Detroit’s backlog of over 11,000 untested rape kits. The DNA evidence in these 21 cases matched to the DNA profiles of suspected offenders involved in at least one other rape case, according to ClickOn Detroit. In some cases, the evidence matched to the DNA in up to five other cases, according to the article.
Testing a rape kit can identify a potential assailant, confirm a suspect’s contact with a victim, corroborate the victim’s account of the sexual assault and exonerate innocent defendants. And of course, testing rape kits can connect suspects to other crimes.
In addition to identifying the possible serial rapists, the DNA evidence in the batch of 153 kits has yielded More >
Along with other survivor advocacy organizations, including the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Healing Exists After Rape Trauma (HEART) and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), Joyful Heart supports the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act of 2012 (SAFER Act), S.3250. The SAFER Act, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), will help state and local law enforcement agencies to end both crime lab and police storage rape kit backlogs by:
- Increasing the percentage of Debbie Smith Act grant funds that must be spent on analyzing untested crime scene evidence;
- Providing state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession;
- Creating a national database maintained by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to track those audits, and
- Requiring greater tracking of how Debbie Smith Act grant funds are spent.
The SAFER Act amends the Debbie Smith Act, which provides federal grants to eligible states and local governments to conduct analyses of backlogged DNA evidence. Joyful Heart encourages Congress to pass the SAFER Act because it addresses several concerns we have about the current version of the Debbie Smith Act.
The SAFER More >
Ann M. is the mother of a survivor who was raped when she was just 12 years old in her own home. Her family had to wait ten years for the perpetrator’s arrest. Ann, along with other courageous survivors, played an integral role in advocating for the recent passage of a law expanding New York State’s DNA Databank to include samples from offenders convicted of all crimes. We thank her for sharing her story and giving a voice to survivors across New York.
Many times over the course of the last couple of weeks, people have approached me regarding the passage of legislation expanding the New York State DNA Databank. Some have been congratulatory, some have been concerned, but, mostly, a great many have simply had more questions than anything else. To the ordinary person, DNA is something that you hear about on TV crime dramas or read about in biology class. Unfortunately, I didn’t come about my knowledge of DNA through either of those modes but, rather, through circumstances that I would give anything to change.
Eleven years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, raising my children—two sons and two daughters—and living a rather ordinary life. That all changed in the More >