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End The Rape-kit Backlog

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End The Rape-Kit Backlog

 

Most people don’t know the statistics of rape, and rape-kits, and about the backlog. Every two minutes a person is raped.  After a person is raped most victims go to the hospital and get a rape-kit. A rape-kit is a kit with supplies used in a very invasive procedure that lasts from four to six hours. During this procedure, DNA evidence is collected, and is then sent to crime labs to be tested. The issue is that not all rape-kits get tested. Hundreds of thousands of rape-kits end up in police storage units where they go untested. Across the country there are about 400,000 untested rape-kits.

Rape-kits costs between $1,000-$1,500 to test. Most rape-kits go untested due to the cost. Foundations like, The Joyful Heart Foundation raises money for rape-kits to be tested. In September 2015, President and Founder of The Joyful Heart Foundation, Mariska Hargitay, and Vice President Joe Biden announced they raised $80 million dollars for rape-kits to be tested in more than 40 law enforcement agencies in 20 states. Many government agencies have also raised millions of dollars to go towards testing rape-kits. That amount of money may seem like a lot, and most people think,that because of that money, that should be the solution to the backlog, and the problem is solved, but it’s not! Their is no way to end the backlog, but we can reduce it.

The money that is raised goes towards reducing the rape-kit backlog by having the untested rape-kits tested. Rape-kits provide DNA evidence which is an important way to solve crimes. Having these rape-kits tested is an important way to keep rapists off the street. Once the rape-kits are tested, DNA evidence is entered into CODIS, which helps law enforcement convict rapists. The problem with CODIS, is that not everyone’s DNA is entered in. CODIS is for collecting the DNA of people who are not first time offenders. This can create a problem when having the results of rape-kits that do not match any DNA in CODIS. On the flip side though, most rapists are not first time offenders so their DNA has already been entered into CODIS for previous crimes and convictions.

Rape-kits are an important way to solve crimes because, they can identify unknown criminals, and confirm the identity of suspects.

There is one problem with rape-kits though, the rate of how the rape-kits are composed. Different jurisdictions in a state test rape-kits differently. This affects the amount of rape-kits being tested and processing the kits. Some states are required to provide the rape-kits to every other state but composing a good rate of rape-kits can be hard for a state in counties/cities that do not have a good jurisdictions due to population and the economy. 1,350 rape crisis centers in the U.S. are located in low-populated, low-economy counties/cities. Due to the low-economy rape victims do not have access to rape-kits or rape medical examiners. As a result of this the rape-kit backlog gets longer because of the unknown amount of rape-kits in a state that go unaccounted for.

Many police officers are not trained in how to handle rape-kits, and many of them do not know the importance of rape-kits so they don’t send them to be tested. Since they are not trained or know the importance of rape-kits, they become biased against testing them or prioritizing cases. 20-25% of the rape-kits that are tested are only cases of unsolved stranger rape. All rape-kits need to be tested, not just because of a certain type of rape. The rape-kits that are more untested are acquaintance rape, cases previously rejected by the DA’s office, and cases with reasonable doubt about a crime being committed. Testing all rape-kits would create ways to make connections between stranger rape, and acquaintance rape, which would help get rid of prioritizing cases. The money that is raised is also used to educate police, and other rape workers on the proper way to handle rape cases.

My goal is to reduce the rape-kit backlog by creating a law that mandates all  rape-kits to be tested by making all funding raised go towards testing rape-kits, as well as using the funding to pay for the workers, and the technology used in order to test the rape-kits. Many law enforcement agencies use the excuse of funding as the reason that they don’t have rape-kits tested. Foundations like The Joyful Heart foundation help raise money for law enforcement agencies to have enough money to test all rape-kits they have. There are many foundations that help with funding for rape-kits as well as government funding. The government funding comes from grants and budgeting proposals from the President and Vice President.

Each rape-kit represents a victim of a sexual assault. When rape-kits are tested it gives victims hopes for justice, because they believe that once they get a rape-kit done it will be immediately tested, and used to find rapists who are then convicted and sentenced to jail. This is not always the case in most rape cases, but my goal is to make this happen. The advantage of my policy is providing justice to victims and law enforcement, reducing the backlog of rape-kits in police storage units, keeping accountability of the amount of rape-kits, and that rape-kits are free for rape victims, and money to pay for my policy does not come from taxes or the people, unless the people want to donate to foundations. There are very few disadvantages to my policy, but some of them are the costs to test the rape-kits, and money for workers and technology in order to have the rape-kits tested.

Overall, the advantages of ending the rape-kit backlog outweigh the disadvantages. This policy brings healing and help to victims of sexual assault, as well as help to law enforcements, and justice to both. Reducing the rape-kit backlog will help victims heal because it will give them justice and peace. Not having rape-kits tested tells victims that what happened to them doesn’t matter, and many of them cannot heal until they have justice, and peace knowing that their rapist will be in jail. Not having them tested also tells rapists that what they do doesn’t matter, and that they can get away with rape. Reducing the rape-kit backlog will send a huge message to victims that what happened to them does matter, and to the rapists that what they do does matter, and what they have done is a serious crime that will no longer go unrecognized or unpunished.

The rape-kit backlog is a very important issue that is not made aware of enough. Most people don’t know about what the rape-kit backlog is or how important it is. Every rape-kit needs to be tested, crime labs need more funding in order to test rape-kits, and most importantly, people need to be educated and aware of the rape-kit backlog.

 

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