New Case in Illinois Is a Deeply Troubling Reminder of the Importance of Testing Rape Kits

A corrections officer in Illinois has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child in 1997 after a rape kit that was part of a backlog in Harvey, Illinois was finally tested. The case is another powerful and deeply troubling example that every untested rape kit represents the failure to bring justice to a survivor and to protect the public.

The victim submitted to a sexual assault evidence collection–or rape kit–exam in August of 1997 after reporting numerous instances of being sexual assaulted by her step-father, Robert Buchanan. Buchanan was questioned but never charged by the Harvey Police Department and went on to serve as a corrections officer in a local jail for over a decade.

This kit was one of 200 untested rape kits that the Cook County State’s Attorney office, the sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police recovered in a 2007 raid, according to various news agencies, including NBC, CBS, ABC, the Chicago Tribune and The Huffington Post.

Under the 2010 Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, the first of two state-wide laws in the country that mandate law enforcement to track and test all rape kits, the Illinois State Police (ISP) was required to collect data on all untested rape kits throughout the state of Illinois. In March, 2011, the ISP released a report documenting 4,126 sexual assault cases in connection to untested rape kits in the state of Illinois.

It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country.

As for the 200 untested rape kits recovered from the Harvey Police Department, the Illinois State’s Attorney’s office began an investigation into these cases in 2007. Since it has begun, charges have been brought against 14 defendants in 20 separate cases, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.

“The victims of these sexual assaults were denied justice when their attacks occurred but we have not forgotten about them,” she said.

We applaud those branches of the Illinois government that have taken action to bring healing and justice that survivors of sexual assault deserve. It should have been delivered years ago.

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