Detroit Can’t Afford To Process Thousands Of Rape Kits

Dan Callister/REX USA
Given its ubiquity, rape is an overwhelmingly underreported crime in the United States. According to data gathered by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds; 68% of those assaults are never reported to police. When survivors do report their rapes, they may spend hours being photographed and examined in the same places they were violated during the attack. The purpose of this is to use a rape kit to obtain DNA, which can then be entered into the FBI database that tracks serial offenders across the country. But, would it be worth going through the examination if you knew that information would then sit, untouched, for years? That’s a valid question for survivors who live in cities with rape-kit backlogs that number in the thousands. Detroit, Michigan, is one of those cities. In 2009, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy discovered that more than 11,000 untested kits were sitting on warehouse shelves. She dedicated herself to shrinking that number to zero. So far, she told CNN, her efforts have helped to identify 188 serial rapists. She expects to indict 3,000 more. But, progress has hit an impasse, since Detroit is too cash-strapped to prosecute the revealed rapists. Even as kits continue to be pulled from shelves and processed, justice goes unserved — because the city lacks the funds to put those criminals behind bars. So, Worthy — along with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, the Michigan Women’s Foundation, and the Detroit Crime Commission — decided to look for the money elsewhere. That’s how Enough SAID (Sexual Assault In Detroit) came to be. The organization’s goal is to prosecute sexual assault crimes and ultimately prevent them. In an interview with CNN, Worthy said they hope to raise $10 million to help investigate, locate, and jail the rapists whose identities lurk within the contents of the city’s untested rape kits. The price of processing a kit is currently $490 (about $1,000 less than before the Detroit Crime Commission began looking for ways to cut down on the cost). But, with all the prosecution actions that follow and the tools needed to process them — human resources, technology, investigations, court proceedings — it is estimated that these cases will cost $2 million per year for the next decade. Or, $8,000 per survivor. In the meantime, this leaves the survivors with one option, and it isn’t a very comforting one: For now, all that’s left to do is wait.

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