COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) -More than 100,000 untested rape kits remain in police and crime labs’ storage facilities, according to estimates by End the Backlog, a program operated by the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation.
End the Backlog’s website stated this backlog, “represents the failure of the criminal justice system to take sexual assault seriously.”
Rape kits are produced after victims undergo a medical examination to test for their perpetrator’s DNA. These tests help prevent and solve crime, yet across the country there is a lack of policies and resources dedicated to testing rape kits.
Without laws or written guidance, testing of the evidence is left to individual officials to decide on a case-to-case basis.
End the Backlog’s site explained this is a problem because the evidence the kits contain can identify unknown assailants and serial offenders. Testing can also link crimes and affirm the survivor’s account.
“Rape kit testing sends a message to survivors that they—and their cases—matter. It sends a message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable for their crimes,” the site stated. “It also demonstrates a commitment to survivors to do everything possible to bring healing and justice.”
In South Carolina, the site estimated 813 test kits have not been tested. However, the state has no laws mandating agencies to test, count or report the number of untested kits, so the number is likely significantly higher.
North Carolina has the highest number of untested kits, according to the site.
15,160 rape kits have not been tested in the state.
In 2018, North Carolina lawmakers enacted a law requiring the state crime lab to develop a rape kit tracking system. The law requires all medical providers, law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to participate in the system. It also allows victims to access their kit information.
South Carolina legislators Mandy Powers Norrell and James Smith proposed increasing regulation in February 2018.
The bill would have made agencies submit sexual assault and abuse evidence to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Under the bill, SLED would issue a quarterly report on the data and create a commission for sexual assault evidence tracking and reporting.
End the Backlog stated this bill died in committee.
Multiple factors contribute to this nationwide backlog including a lack of policies, training and resources.
Municipalities can save money by addressing the back log.
A study by Case Western Reserve University found Cleveland saved $38.7 million through its backlog testing program.