The evidence collected from rape victims after they’ve been assaulted goes into something called a rape kit. It’s the product of a lengthy and uncomfortable examination process that, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, far too often leads to nothing. Some 400,000 rape kits are sitting in storage, untested, right now.
Los Angeles Times:
The National Institute of Justice estimates that at least 400,000 rape kits are sitting untested in police stations and crime labs across the country. In the city of Los Angeles alone, more than 7,000 sit in refrigerated storage in a city warehouse facility and a trailer behind police headquarters. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department likely has its own backlog, but the sheriff has never disclosed its size.
Law enforcement officials blame a lack of resources—for starters, they need more crime lab staff. But it’s hard not to surmise that the problem is, in reality, a matter of priorities. Among L.A. City Council members, only Jack Weiss has insisted on budget increases to address the rape kit backlog. This year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rejected the LAPD’s funding request to hire more crime lab staff.
If I were a rape victim, I might never know whether my rape kit was opened. I might assume that silence from the police meant that the crime lab just didn’t find any DNA, or none that identified my assailant. Although not every tested rape kit yields a database match, when New York City processed all its backlogged rape kits in 2003, the effort led to about 2,000 hits.