Rape kits often contain key pieces of evidence needed to nab a suspect in a sexual assault case. But far too often, these kits are left untested, which means survivors continue to live in fear and rapists could be walking free.
There’s currently a backlog of about 400,000 untested rape kits in the United States. To alert politicians to the urgency of the issue, the nonprofit Test400K is sending a standard rape kit and a petition to every U.S. governor to urge them to improve the processing of this type of evidence.
A standard rape kit may contain bags and paper sheets for evidence collection and documentation forms, among other items needed to conduct a sexual assault forensic exam. In addition to getting the kit, the governors will be urged to sign a call to action that will expedite testing and update the way these kits are tracked.
“Faster processing with tracking means rape cases are investigated before any statute of limitations and ideally before a rapist brutalizes another innocent person,” Jason Burdeen, co-founder of Test400K, said in a statement.
The group hopes to streamline the tracking of each kit with the same efficiency that, say, FedEx uses to track its packages around the world.
The campaign aims to improve this process with STACS DNA software, which enables law enforcement to track a kit from the hospital to the crime lab and lets survivors obtain information about the status of a rape kit.
Without such a system, there’s no mechanism to hold law enforcement accountable, which can lead to delays in testing and lost kits, according to Test400K.
Statistics alone underscore the need to incorporate programs like STACS DNA into the investigation process.
Only three out of every 100 rapists will go to prison in the U.S., Burdeen said in a statement. Keeping tabs on the kits could help lock up more perpetrators.
Each governor will get a log-in code to test how the system works and Test400K will release the links to each tracking code. The group will update the site as governors endorse the call to action.
Sexual assault survivor Michelle Kuiper put a face to the need for such systems.
Kuiper was assaulted in college in 1994. She was stalked and terrorized until her kit was matched to a serial predator in 2011.
“I was never able to fully live a life, without fear of my perpetrator finding me, until he was caught almost two decades later,” Kuiper said in a statement. “A victim of their rapist not only has to survive the actual violence of rape itself, every feeling, thought, sound, image and smell … but, they have to figure out how to survive that trauma and their life after.”