Rape Kit Backlog

Did you know…

That one out of every six American women will be victims of sexual assault? That every two minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted?

It is extremely hard to report to sexual assault. There are hundreds of reasons people don’t report that we need to acknowledge and respect.  We have all heard stories of people not being believed, of having their sexual history used against them, of being asked what they were wearing or how much they were drinking.

But what happens to those who do choose to report?  Sexual assault is a unique crime to investigate because a person’s body becomes the crime scene where evidence can be collected.  If a sexual assault survivor goes to a hospital with 96 hours, a rape kit can be performed to collect evidence.  A rape kit can be a long, grueling process, especially for someone who is already traumatized.  It is ideal that there is a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) available, but if there isn’t a doctor or nurse will do the exam, though they may be unfamiliar with what goes into collecting evidence for a rape kit.  A rape kit consists of undressing and having your clothes taken.  Oral, vaginal, and anal swabs are taken.  Fingernail scrapings will be taken.  The practitioner will see if the perpetrator left any pubic hairs.  There is no doubt that this is a hard, difficult process, and that people who go through it are extremely brave and strong.

So after a long day or night in the emergency department, what happens? Well, it can take months, years, or even decades to have the results tested, if they are tested at all.  There is a huge backlog in our country, and hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit in storage, going untested.  Backlogged kits send a message to survivors that people don’t care about their case and that perpetrators can get away with sexual violence.  These kits represent lost justice–to the survivor and to the whole community, since most rapists are repeat offenders.  

However, we can all help—go to www.endthebacklog.org and learn more about the shameful way our country treats rape survivors. Please spend five minutes learning about this issue and seeing what you can do to help.  We need to raise awareness about this issue and advocate for these survivors so they can get the justice they deserve.

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