This Is What Happens When You Test Old Rape Kits

Image: AP

After New York City cleared its own rape kit backlog, the Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 2015 awarded nearly $80 million in grants to help address the national backlog on rape kits. The result of that effort, the Associated Press reports, is more than 1,000 arrests and hundreds of convictions according to officials.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office poured $38 million into a grant that tested a backlog of 55,252 rape kits and has led to 186 arrests and 64 convictions across the country. The Justice Department, meanwhile, funded testing through a parallel initiative for an additional 45,000 rape kits that resulted in nearly 900 prosecutions and 500 convictions and plea bargains nationwide.

While rape kits are far from perfect, they are a key piece of evidence authorities rely on to identify and prosecute rapists. As an example: police in Riverside, California arrested a suspect in a rape case from 1996 after testing a previously untested rape kit.

In some cases, the results of one test also helped solve other cases. Here’s one of the closed cases solved by rape kit testing in Arizona, per the Manhattan DA’s Office report:

In December 2017, DNA from a previously untested rape kit led to the indictment of Michael Paladino, 28, for a 2005 sexual assault. Further investigation connected Paladino to five other sexual assault cases between 2003 and 2006, including many where the victims were minors at the time of the assault. Paladino is charged with six sexual assault charges.

In another Arizona case, after testing Maisha Sudbeck’s rape kit from 2017, Tuscon detectives identified her attacker, Nathan Loebe, in the criminal database. In February, Sudbeck testified against Loebe, who was convicted of sexually assaulting her and six other women. “My chapter was reopened,” Sudbeck told the New York Times. “Having my kit finally tested was a catalyst for hope.”

“We have solved New York cases with kits tested from Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Virginia,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.

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The initiative’s funding runs out in September. But the backlog is a long way from being cleared: an estimated 250,000 more remain.

What happens when you test rape kits? You catch rapists.

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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