Rape kits contain crucial evidence for prosecuting assaulters and finding justice for survivors, but not only do so many of them go untested, a shocking number of them are actually thrown out every year.
A report by Muckrock and Broadly found that New York City public hospitals have ended up destroying 840 rape kits since 2012 — about 20% of all kits NYC Health + Hospitals collected at the time. The rape kits were all destroyed before they were sent to the New York Police Department.
Under New York Public Health law, hospitals are only required to keep rape kits for 30 days, and while survivors can request that their kits be sent to law enforcement for evidence, the 30-day deadline can place pressure on survivors who may still be dealing with trauma.
"In no other crime does evidence get destroyed," Amanda Nguyen, CEO and founder of Rise, a nonprofit that fights against destruction of rape kits, said in a statement to Broadly. "It’s a double standard set for survivors, who are majority female, and is a clear and prominent gap in our justice system."
In a statement to Broadly, NYC Health + Hospitals said that the decision not to release kits to police "reflects the wishes of the patient, and not the hospital," and that "if at the 30-day mark a patient is unsure of how they want to proceed, the hospital will hold the evidence until the patient is ready to make a decision."
"NYC Health + Hospitals works very closely with survivors of sexual assault through treatment and counseling to ensure patients understand their options," a spokesman told Broadly. "The health system is committed to honoring the decisions of our patients and complies with their wishes following a sexual assault forensic exam."
Be that as it may, given that New York has no statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault, it's particularly egregious to enact a 30-day limit on keeping rape kits.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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