On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden, together with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, announced efforts to process some 70,000 untested rape kits, committing nearly $80 million to their resolution.
During a press conference held at New York City’s medical examiner’s office, Biden and Lynch underscored the importance of clearing the national backlog, pledging $41 million of federal funds to test 13,500 kits in 20 jurisdictions. Vance, upholding a promise made last fall, will apportion $38 million in forfeiture funds and provide grants of up to $2 million to examine 56,000 rape kits in 32 agencies across the country.
Conservative estimates suggest approximately 400,000 rape kits sit untested in crime labs nationwide. At $1,000 per kit analysis, some police departments resist addressing their cities’ backlogs, citing lack of funds.
The benefits of testing rape kits are undeniable. Rape kits afford prosecutors the opportunity to indict “John Doe”s, securing their DNA in a national database and effectively stopping the clock on the statute of limitations imposed on sexual assault cases. Moreover, given an estimated 90 to 95 percent of rapes are committed by serial rapists, rape kits allow law enforcement to prosecute repeat offenders before they rape again.
Efforts to eliminate the backlog have already yielded results in cities nationwide. In Detroit, for example, the analysis of 10,000 previously untested rape kits exposed 487 serial rapists in at large in several states. Los Angeles has eliminated their backlog entirely with grant assistance and now processes rape kits within three months of receipt.
“The bottom line is simple,” said Biden, who authored and spearheaded passage of the VAWA law and has long championed programs to end violence against women, “[I]f we’re able to test these kits, more crimes could be solved and more women can live with the comfort of knowing her rapist will not return.”
Media Resources: NBC News 9/10/15; NY Post 9/10/15; Ms. Magazine 6/23/15; 3/17/15; 11/14/14; Manhattan DA Press Release;