​Backlogged Rape Kits Are Helping Victims See Justice Years Later

In light of the increasing revelations regarding the extensive backlog of rape testing kits, more and more cities are attempting to remedy the stagnant condition of sexual assault justice.

Over at the New York Times, Erik Eckholm tells a heartwrenching story of Meaghan Ybos, a woman who only found out her rapist had been brought to justice after recognizing him in news accounts and asking police to finally have her kit tested—nine years after she had been raped. While it was a relief for her to know that Anthony Alliano, the man who attacked her was in prison, she was an early victim, and he had gone on to attack at least six more women. He is currently serving a 178-year sentence.

Clearly, despite protests that looking into past kits uses up funding and resources that could be used on more recent cases, looking into kits dropped by the system are integral in identifying serial offenders. But as Eckholm points out, the way sexual assault kits are handled often reflects the general regard of sexual assault cases:

If the testing gaps are a sign of broader problems in the investigation of sexual assaults, as many critics say, then more wide-ranging changes in the culture of police departments must be nurtured as well.

In an interview at City Hall, Mayor Wharton of Memphis said he had asked for changes in police promotion and assignment guidelines "to make sure those moving into this field have a special passion."

"We'll do whatever it takes to have a top-notch sex-crimes unit," he said. "The police are taking reports more seriously, and there is no more saying, 'Victim is a known prostitute,' " he added, referring to one notorious rationale for not pursuing rape cases.

While the sentiment is certainly an improvement from victim-blaming sex workers, such words might not be so reassuring to women whose kits and attacks have been long neglected.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and Shelby County as well as current and former police directors and district attorneys is pending. Meaghan Ybos along with two other victims of Anthony Alliano filed the suit alleging the defendants' failure to see to adequate and timely rape kit testing allowed Alliano to continue his attacks.