A group of women in Chicago has banded together to address a mounting backlog of untested rape kits at the Illinois State Police Crime Lab. The Women’s DNA Initiative announced their plans on Sunday in the Chicago Tribune to raise as much as $1 million to have the rape evidence tested at private firms. Shortly thereafter, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed to find $3 million in the state’s budget to address the three-year backlog of some 1,500 rape kits, the Tribune reports.
The National Rape Evidence Project estimates that the backlog nationwide is at least 350,000 rape kits. “The reality is a woman gets raped and she goes through a second invasive process of having a rape kit done where they swab all different parts of her body,” former New York City police commissioner Howard Safir told the Tribune. “She leaves thinking she went through the second invasive process because it’s going to help catch a rapist. In many locations around the country, they just sit on the shelves.” In 1999 Safir convinced then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to spend $12 million to analyze a backlog of more than 17,000 kits, according to the Tribune.
The US House of Representatives recently passed a bill that designates $755 million over five years to the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, focused on eliminating the current backlog of DNA rape kits nationwide. “This new law will pull rapists off the streets and throw them behind bars, case closed.” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), author of the original Debbie Smith Act, in a press statement. “This action guarantees prevention of future sexual assaults and resolution for some unsolved rapes … Rape kits should be in the lab undergoing analysis, not stuck on the shelves of a warehouse.”