Violence Against Women

Testing Detroit’s Backlogged Rape Kits Has Already Identified 188 Serial Rapists

Advocates are making a push to eliminate the backlog of almost 11,000 rape kits that have gone untested in Detroit. Since they started, they’ve identified 188 serial rapists from 27 states.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Six years ago, it was discovered that the city of Detroit, Michigan had over 11,000 untested rape kits in an abandoned police storage unit. Since then, the Detroit police department has been working to eliminate the backlog, and have processed over 2,000 of the kits. Aside from the 188 identified serial rapists, the testing has also produced over 750 DNA matches to an FBI database. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office has so far issued warrants for 23 alleged rapists, convicted 14 of them, and three are awaiting trial.

Activists hope that this is the beginning of justice for rape survivors. “We want to make sure we deal with the victims mercifully, honestly and genuinely,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, announcing legislation that is going to be introduced to state lawmakers for setting guidelines and deadlines for rape kits to be tested and processed.

“It is outrageous that these rape kits were misplaced and nor processed, some for decades,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “If some 2,000 processed rape kits revealed 188 serial rapists, how many serial rapists would have been brought to justice if these remaining rape kits were tested? How many women have suffered because of this gross negligence?”

Detroit is not alone. Cities across the country have thousands of untested and unprocessed rape kits. In Memphis, Tennessee, there are almost 12,000 untested rape kits, and there are over 4,000 in Las Vegas. Last November, Cyrus Vance, the district attorney of Manhattan pledged $35 million to try to eliminate the backlog of up to 70,000 untested rape kits nationwide.

Media Resources: BBC 2/4/15; ABC 7;; NPR 2/10/15; Associated Press 11/15

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