Accountability Is the First Step

Today, The Accountability Project, an initiative of our ENDTHEBACKLOG program, released our first findings about the extent of the backlog in four cities—Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Seattle and Tulsa. The Accountability Project aims to bring greater transparency and accountability around rape kit testing practices nationwide. Our work—as well as the results of a CBS News investigation—were highlighted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Laura Strickler in a report on the CBS Evening News last night and on CBS This Morning today.

Through a pro bono partnership with the law firms Goodwin Procter LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, we’ve been sending public records requests to ascertain the number of untested kits in 15 of the country’s largest cities that have yet to reveal any information about whether or not they have a backlog of untested rape kits. Although we don’t expect to receive numbers from every city, we do hope to increase awareness around rape kit testing policies and practices nationwide. For those cities where we do discover backlogs, we plan to engage with them further to develop and implement survivor-centered reforms. 

Once the extent of a jurisdiction’s backlog is revealed, real reform can begin. When law enforcement agencies are held accountable for the untested kits in their custody, they can begin to take steps to test those kits and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished—often for years or even decades—and to hold offenders accountable.

The data released today show that thousands of kits remain untested in Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Seattle and Tulsa. In Tulsa there are at least 3,783 untested kits—some dating back to 1989—and in Milwaukee, there are 2,655. Across the entire state of Wisconsin, there are 6,006 untested kits. Information from Seattle reveals that only 22% of kits collected since 2004 have been tested, and in Las Vegas, just 16%

You can learn more about The Accountability Project’s process and see the available data from a city here. We also urge you to explore our interactive map displaying everything we know and do not know about where the backlog exists, and our extensive media and resource archive of news and reporting about the backlog from across the country.

Join us in ending the backlog:

  • Spread the word about our work on The Accountability Project. One of the greatest barriers to ending the backlog is that people simply don’t know the backlog exists. Share this tweet and share the link to our project on your networks.
  • Send a letter to your U.S. Senator—and other elected officials. They need to hear from you about the value of tracking and testing rape kits and giving law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to fully investigate these crimes and support survivors throughout the process. Sending your letters takes just a moment, so take action today

- By Sarah Tofte, October 3, 2014

ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.

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END THE BACKLOG is a JOYFUL HEART FOUNDATION initiative and a proud supporter of