Rape evidence in U.S. languishes untested in police storage
The United States leads the world in the use of rape kits to gather DNA and forensic evidence from victims of sexual assault, but hundreds of thousands of those kits remain untested, some for years, according to researchers.
The number of untested kits could be as high as 400,000 - the still widely quoted figure released by the Bush Administration in 2004 when it announced the creation of the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to assist states with reducing the backlog. Smith was a rape victim who waited six years for her kit to be tested.
The backlog so disturbed Julie Smolyansky, the president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Lifeway Foods and a certified rape crisis counselor, that in late March she announced the launch of Test400k, a national campaign to raise awareness, advocate and support innovation in rapid DNA analysis. Financing will come from grants, corporate sponsorships and other fundraising, she said.
The problem - and a troubling symptom of the lingering lassitude about rape investigations in the U.S. - is that no one really knows the actual number of untested kits languishing in police storage rooms around the country, according to those working in the field.