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Backlog of Rape Kit Testing is a Problem Nationwide

February 7th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Rape Kit Testing IMAGEThe Chicago Tribune recently reported on a story covering the delay in processing and sometimes complete failure of rape kits to be tested by law enforcement and lab workers across the country. The fear of many is that as a result of this failure, victims would not get justice and their attackers would remain free to rape them and potential other victims, as long as they were not in prison. As a result, many concerned citizens are forming organizations and getting involved in groups aimed at eliminating the backlog and coming up with alternative ways of testing rape kits and tracking them.

 Many advocates of the victims allege that the backlog in testing is attributed to the low priority that many sexual assault victims are given by law enforcement. Illinois was the first of four states to mandate the testing of rape kits, which it implemented in 2010. Now, the almost 4,100 kits that were untested at the time have been processed, some decades old. The completed kits were sent back to the appropriate local police departments for further action. The results made 927 matches in the national DNA database, giving law enforcement promising leads.

That law in Illinois gives police 10 business days to transfer completed rape kits to the state crime labs. The labs, in turn, have six months to process the kits. While the law is considered to be a step in the right direction, the conditions under which it must be followed are flexible: police compliance is voluntary and the time limit only applies to labs if they have enough staff and resources for administering the testing. State officials are monitoring the law and looking into how the process can be improved.

In the meantime, backlog problems will likely still exist because of cost, lab staffing, and tracking issues. This means some offenders may never be prosecuted, either because the kits were not tested or the relevant statute of limitations had expired by the time they were. The article reports a statistic echoing this fact. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says that 97 percent of rapists are never incarcerated, due in large part to victims’ failure to report. They estimate that 40 of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to police.

Sexual assault crimes, including rape, are serious offenses that usually involve complicated legal issues that arise within the context of a criminal case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

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