Experts Explain Why Testing Every Kit Matters

We sometimes hear from jurisdictions that they don’t consider the untested rape kits in their storage facilities to be part of a backlog—that officials actively chose not to test those kits. These jurisdictions fail to see the value of testing every kit booked into evidence, particularly when the identity of the perpetrator is known.

At the Joyful Heart Foundation, we join experts in this work to roundly dispute the idea that there are kits that do not require testing. 

We believe each kit represents a survivor who underwent the four-to-six-hour rape kit collection process and reported the rape to the police. Each kit represents a survivor who deserves to have that kit tested, and who deserves justice.

And yet, hundreds of thousands of times, a decision is made not to process the evidence. In fact, many of these survivors never receive any follow-up information after filing the initial police report. 

We are deeply committed to working with every interested partner to help find the necessary resources, to implement best practices and to enact comprehensive reforms that will end the backlog of untested rape kits. 

“Every victim of a sexual assault who submits herself - or himself - to a physical examination and the collection of evidence deserves to have that evidence, that DNA, tested, and tested in a timely fashion. There is critical information in each one of those evidence kits - information that can lead to the conviction of an assailant or the exoneration of an innocent man, and information that can save the lives of others from attack by sexual predators. Every evidence collection kit - every single one in America - must be tested. This backlog of life-saving information must be eliminated now.”

- Linda Fairstein, former New York City prosecutor and Joyful Heart Foundation Board Member

“Dollar for dollar, our Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, where we test every kit and follow-up on every lead that results, will be the most productive use of time and money by a law enforcement task force ever in Cuyahoga County. We now realize that the DNA in these old rape kits is a ticket to prison for a trainload of violent rapists. These Cold Case kits are a virtual gold mine. We have an unprecedented opportunity to take a large percentage of this county’s most dangerous criminals off the street all at the same time. We have hit the mother lode – and we intend to mine the hell out of it. By putting them in prison, these habitual offenders will not be able to rape, burglarize or kill others – which our data proves they otherwise would.”

- Timothy J. McGinty, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Prosecutor

“Anyone who feels that all rape kits should not be tested is being woefully shortsighted. Testing is the first step in bringing justice to long neglected victims. The next important steps are investigation and prosecution. People should be aware that these kits contain valuable evidence that can assist law enforcement in preventing future rapes, robberies, home invasions and even homicides.”

- Kym Worthy, Wayne County (Michigan) Prosecutor

“The City of Memphis decided early on that every kit should be tested to give survivors and perpetrators the justice they deserve. Also, we know that rapists are often guilty of other crimes such as, burglary, armed robbery, assault and murder. The inventory of sexual assault kits is a treasure trove of evidence. By mining this evidence we can not only solve sexual assault cases, we can solve multiple crimes and bring hundreds of criminals to justice.”

- A C  Wharton, Jr., Mayor of Memphis

- By Melissa Schwartz, November 6th, 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