Media Archive by Topic: rape kit backlog

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Assault survivors have waited too long
March 4, 2017 • Albuquerque Journal
Jayann Sepich and Ilse Knecht

Every year, thousands of individuals who have been sexually assaulted take the step of reporting the crime to the police. They submit to an examination of their body and have evidence collected in a process that typically takes four to six hours. The evidence is saved in a “Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit” – a rape kit.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, communities can identify serial perpetrators, take dangerous offenders off the streets, exonerate the innocent and prevent future crimes.

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Editorial: A rape kit calamity
February 20, 2017 • Savannah Morning News
Savannah Morning News

Joanie is a Missouri woman who was brutally raped in 1991 by a man she didn’t know and then was virtually ignored by the criminal justice system.

Fortunately, her attacker was eventually caught and sent to prison, thanks to persistent officials in that state who made sure the rape kit taken after her attack was tested and the results shared.

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Let’s Talk About It: ‘Hundreds of thousands’ of rape kits are sitting on shelves
January 9, 2017 • Ionia Sentinel-Standard
DomesticShelters.org

It was traumatic enough that in 1996, at just 17 years old, Helena was raped repeatedly by a stranger who approached her at a self-service car wash, pressing a knife to her throat before forcing her to drive to an abandoned truck yard. What followed was 13 years of being ignored by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Her rape kit—collected the same day that her rapist assaulted her, held her hostage, then freed her after threatening to kill her family if she went to police—sat on a shelf somewhere gathering dust for over a decade.

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Attorney General's report calls for statewide standards on rape kits
January 3, 2017 • The Baltimore Sun
Alison Knezevich

Police in Maryland should test nearly all rape kits, notify victims of the results and store the kits for a fixed period of time, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said.

A report issued to lawmakers by Frosh's office Tuesday said a lack of statewide guidelines on when to test rape kits and how long to keep them has resulted in police departments adopting inconsistent policies. Some keep the kits indefinitely, but others throw them out.

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A flawed, inconsistent police response to sexual assault in Maryland
December 3, 2016 • The Baltimore Sun
Catherine Rentz and Alison Knezevich

Catherine Becket hadn't forgotten that evening three years ago in her Parkville apartment, though she tried.

Then, as she watched with outrage while Stanford University student Brock Turner served three months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, she resolved to confront her own memories. She called Baltimore County police this summer about reopening her sexual assault case.

But she soon discovered that would be difficult.

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Feds Kick In $38M More to Fight Rape-Kit Backlog
September 21, 2016 • Courthouse News Service
Nick Divito

Two years after shocking revelations about 70,000 rape kits that went unprocessed across the country for decades, the United States committed another $38 million on Monday to expand testing.

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SVU's Mariska Hargitay on Vice President Joe Biden's Guest Role and THAT Premiere Shocker
September 21, 2016 • People
Lanford Beard

Mariska Hargitay has had to portray a lock of terrifying, disturbing scenarios in 17 seasons on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but the actress and mother of three was especially impacted by one shocking scene in the season 18 premiere. 

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An Incomprehensible Failure
September 20, 2016 • The Huffington Post
Sarah Haacke Byrd

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice released its much-anticipated report about policing practices in Baltimore, Maryland. Included in their examination is scathing evidence that victims of sexual assault in the city are denied equal and full access to the law.

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A disturbing trend: evidence in rape cases often goes untested
August 2016 • Seattle Magazine
Elaine Porterfield
The backlog of untested rape kits goes back years, and it's hindering the justice process. read more
Ohio Supreme Court reverses decision in Cleveland rape kit case that drew national attention
July 27, 2016 • Cleveland.com
Rachel Dissell

CLEVELAND, Ohio –The Ohio Supreme Court today unanimously reversed the decision of a Cleveland appeals court in a rape kit case being watched across the country.

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Inside the national effort to combat the rape kit backlog – and how Detroit Is leading the fight
June 9, 2016 • People
Diana Pearl

After Natasha Alexenko was raped and robbed at gunpoint in New York City in 1993, her first instinct was to try to wash the experience off her.

"It was an ordeal that changed my life forever," she says. "And your first instinct after you've been assaulted – at least mine – was to take a hot shower."  

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Tempe sending around 500 sexual-assault kits, some dating to the early '90s, for testing
June 8, 2016 • AZ Central
Chris Coppola
The kits are being tested because they never were submitted or need to be checked again with new methods. read more
Advocates praise senate bill on sexual assault victims’ rights
may 24, 2016 • The New York Times
Emmarie Huetteman

WASHINGTON — Advocates for victims of sexual assault on Tuesday praised the Senate’s unanimous approval of a bill that would establish a set of rights for victims, including the right to be informed of the results of forensic tests and to have evidence preserved.

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Key legislators approve amended version of bill to test rape kits
April 30, 2016 • Honolulu Star Advertiser
Sophie Cocke

Hawaii’s police departments will likely be required to take action on hundreds of rape kits that have sat in storage facilities for years, as well as new rape kits, after key lawmakers Friday agreed to an amended version of House Bill 1907.

The bill gained traction after the Honolulu Police Department revealed in February that it had 1,500 untested kits that contain forensic evidence from rape victims. The untested kits, which could help solve crimes and catch serial rapists, date back more than a decade.

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Victims' Group: SD Rape Kit Testing Law a Mixed Bag
April 20, 2016 • Public News Service
Brandon Campbell

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota's new rape kit testing law is now in effect, but a sexual assault victims' group argues it may not go far enough to tackle the state's backlog. 

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New celebrity PSAs address myth, societal attitudes that confront male survivors of childhood sexual abuse
March 7, 2016 • Honolulu Star Advertiser
Sophie Cocke

Joyful Heart and 1in6 are proud to share a new series in Joyful Heart’s groundbreaking, celebrity-driven NO MORE PSA campaign to address the myths and excuses surrounding males who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and to invite male survivors to seek help at 1in6.org. The PSAs were created in partnership with Viacom, directed by Joyful Heart’s Founder & President, actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, developed in partnership with Y&R, Executive Creative Director/Writer, Rachel Howald, and photographed by world-renowned celebrity photographer Timothy White.

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Ohio tests 10,000 rape kits to clear backlogs, hundreds indicted
February 18, 2016 • Reuters
Kim Palmer

An effort Ohio launched about five years ago to manage its backlog of rape kits has resulted in more than 10,000 tests to recover physical evidence and led to at least 445 indictments, the state Attorney General's office said on Thursday.

"This is a tremendous milestone," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. "The testing of these 10,000 kits has helped identify hundreds of alleged assailants, many of whom repeatedly committed violent attacks."

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Faced With Staggering Backlogs of Rape Kits, States Change Testing, Investigations
February 17, 2016 • The Pew Charitable Trusts
Rebecca Beitsch

Seeking to secure justice for thousands of rape victims, about 20 states are moving to test a backlog of unexamined rape kits found in storage rooms in police departments across the country — and change the rules for how rape cases are handled in the future.

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Why One Ohio Court Case Could Be Detrimental for Rape Victims Everywhere
February 8, 2016 • Broadly.
Lindsay Schrupp
Despite Ohio's extensive initiative to test thousands of previously untested, backlogged rape kits, one Ohio Supreme Court case could affect the ways in which future rape cases are prosecuted. read more
Why an Ohio Supreme Court case involving rape kits is drawing national attention
February 17, 2016 • Cleveland.com
Rachel Dissel

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland rape case in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court could result in tougher standards for prosecuting cases reopened after tests on thousands rape kits, some that had been shelved for decades.

State and national victims' advocacy groups are closely watching the case. They've filed legal briefs warning that, if an appeals court decision stands, it could undermine justice for rape survivors and allow serial rapists to evade prosecution.

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Joyful Heart Foundation and Partners File Amicus Brief in Ohio Case That Could Undermine Justice for Rape Survivors
January 20, 2016 • ENDTHEBACKLOG
Joyful Heart Foundation
We have just filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Ohio, which is appealing the Ohio Court of Appeals’ decision to use the state’s backlog of untested rape kits in part to dismiss rape and kidnapping charges against an alleged serial rapist. Partners AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, Rape Abuse Incest National Network, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) joined Joyful Heart in the filing. read more
It’s Not a Backlog, It’s a Lack of Concern for Rape Victims
January 15, 2016 • Counterpunch
Lauren Finley

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. “Rape kit” is the term used to describe the physical evidence obtained from a victim who reports being sexually assaulted. Victims’ bodies are, in essence, the crime scene. They endure what some might describe as a second sexual violation, being scraped, poked and prodded, only out of hope that their perpetrator can eventually be held accountable. And perhaps not rape again, as so many do.

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New Mexico Audit Finds 5,411 Untested Rape Kits
January 7, 2016 • Public News Service

SANTA FE, N.M. – Victims' rights advocates are hoping New Mexico officials take steps during the upcoming legislative session to deal with the state's backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, or rape kits.

A state audit discovered more than 5,400 kits still sitting in police evidence lockers around the state. 

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No urgency in testing rape kits amounts to no respect for victims
January 5, 2016 • Miami Herald
Fabiola Santiago

Where’s the urgency, the respect for rape victims?

On Tuesday afternoon, a day after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released a report revealing the high number of rape-evidence kits that sit untested for DNA in police storage facilities, the police agency with the highest number of them remained mum.

Still working on trying to get information, a spokesman of the Miami-Dade County Police Department told the Miami Herald.

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Hundreds of sexual assault kits untested in Missouri
January 5, 2016 • KOMU 8
Emna Nicolas

COLUMBIA – Hundreds of rape and sexual assault kits in Missouri go untested for months or years at a time, while some are never tested at all.

The current state of Missouri’s system to prosecute rapists is failing survivors who made the choice of enduring the four to six-hour examination required to create a kit.

“And they do that with the expectation that the evidence will be used in their case, and that it will be handled appropriately and effectively,” said Ilse Knecht, the Joyful Heart Foundation's policy and advocacy director.

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