Last week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the latest numbers on his state’s efforts to end its backlog of untested rape kits, which currently stands at 4,956.
Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. They overcome the terrible, misplaced social stigma of being the victim of sexual violence. They overcome the warnings sometimes uttered by the rapist to keep silent. They overcome the suggestions that these issues ought not to be spoken of, and they speak up.
The forensic examination of their bodies, the crime scene, typically takes four to six hours, and yields what is called a rape kit. And experts estimate there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits sitting untested throughout the country.
The Prosecutor's Office says 11,000 rape kits have been found sitting on the shelves at a police annex building. Most of the kits were untested, until now.
Most Americans with a general knowledge of our criminal justice system assume that rape kit evidence is sent for testing automatically after it is booked into police evidence. As DNA has played an increasingly important role in our criminal justice system, even laypeople grasp how vital DNA evidence is in resolving rape cases. Rape kit testing can identify an unknown assailant, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm a victim's version of events, discredit a suspect's story, identify serial rapists by connecting individual crime scenes, and exonerate innocent suspects. Rape kit testing sends a crucial message to victims that their cases matter. It puts assailants on notice that the criminal justice system takes their crimes seriously.