More Than 9,000 Untested Rape Kits Reported in Tennessee

According to a just-released report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), there are more than 9,000 untested rape kits at law enforcement agencies across the state, some dating back to 1985. Legislation passed earlier this year required every law enforcement agency statewide to report the number of untested kits in its facilities.  

Memphis reported the largest number—nearly 7,000—signaling progress made since the city reported a backlog of more than 12,000 untested kits late last year. It was, in part, the announcement of Memphis’s backlog that led the Tennessee legislature to require every agency to count their rape kits in order to have an understanding of the extent of the problem. 

While Memphis still has the largest backlog, Knoxville followed with 394 untested kits, and Jackson Police with 249. Nashville, which previously acknowledged a backlog of 338 untested kits, reported a total of approximately 200 kits to TBI. The oldest of Nashville’s kits is from 1996. A police department spokesman stated that the department would send the remaining 200 kits to a private lab for testing later in the week. 

“We can’t stop here,” said Tennessee Rep. Antonio Parkinson. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on and keep reducing these [backlogs].” As the representative points out, Tennessee’s communities must now commit to testing every kit booked into evidence, and to following up on investigative leads and moving cases forward to prosecution. Acknowledging a backlog is just the first step in the process of brining long-awaited justice to survivors.  

- By Sophia Schrager, September 15, 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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