Investigative Reporting

Ending the backlog starts with knowing that a backlog exists and determining the number of untested kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities. Few state or local governments and no federal agencies track this rape kit data, making it difficult to determine which states and cities have backlogs, and which do not. Much of what we do know about the backlog has been uncovered by journalists, human rights researchers and—less often—city or state officials.     

Many local news affiliates and non-profit organizations have reported on untested rape kits, and others may be willing to investigate whether your state or city has a backlog. As an example, in November 2012, Keli Rabon, a reporter with ABC 7 News in Colorado, uncovered hundreds of untested rape kits at police departments across the greater Denver area. Rabon’s investigation and its subsequent national media coverage led directly to changes in policies at the state and local levels. The police departments in question changed their rape kit testing policies to test all kits, and the state legislature passed a law making Colorado the third state to require law enforcement agencies to test every rape kit booked into evidence.

As a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sarah Tofte advocates for rape kit reform in Los Angeles.

Similarly, after Human Rights Watch released a groundbreaking report in 2009 exposing a backlog of nearly 13,000 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, law enforcement officials committed to testing every rape kit booked into evidence. Two years later, they announced that they had eliminated the backlog entirely.

A separate 2010 Human Rights Watch report on the rape kit backlog in Illinois shone a light on the fact that the vast majority of rape kit evidence was going untested across the state, and that many jurisdictions did not keep track of the number untested rape kits in their storage facilities. As research for the report concluded, Illinois became the first to pass legislation requiring law enforcement officials to count and send all kits to a lab for testing.

From watershed investigative reports to news alerts about the backlog, our News and Media Center is an extensive library of resources and information about the rape kit backlog. Click here to view news and investigative reports about the rape kit backlog. If you would like to learn more about the rape kit backlog in your area, click here.

To take action now to help end the rape kit backlog, click here.

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