The revelation that untested rape kits have been sitting around in law enforcement agencies across the country is something that has been discussed numerous times over the past decade. Earlier this year, there was hope that the backlog of these kits was decreasing. In March, Vice President Joe Biden supported a $41 million proposal that was targeted at reducing the pile, but an investigation by USA Today shows that the issue may not have been due to lack of funds.
“There’s ample money there,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN. “But to date, only about 51% of that has gone towards casework and making sure labs have the capacity to do the testing.” In 2013, Congress passed the SAFER Act (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act) that required at least three quarters of the funding to be allocated towards testing of the kits and maintaining their inventory, but the money is usually spent on general DNA testing, administrative expenses or other unrelated purposes.
Via USA Today:
The SAFER Act also established a grant program to fund inventories of untested sexual assault kits by state and local agencies. However, the Department of Justice has so far not awarded any grants under the law.
Another result of this lack of implementation, is that the decision whether or not to test a rape kit has likely been up to the officer of each investigation. Mai Fernandez, the executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, believes there should be criteria for these kits to be tested. “It can’t just be at the discretion of whoever is at the police station that day,” she said. At least 70,000 sexual assault kits were found at more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., so it’s probable that the number of untested kits are actually hundreds of thousands.
“Testing rape kits should be a priority for the U.S.,” Biden said back in March. “If we’re able to test these rape kits, more crimes would be solved, more rapes would be avoided.”
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