Eight years after a routine tour of a Detroit police storage warehouse uncovered 11,341 untested rape kits, a Michigan prosecutor has managed to test 10,000 of them, identifying 817 serial rapists in the process. Speaking with The Detroit Free Press, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that there are an estimated “400,000 untested rape kits” nationwide, and that their analysis had found that “a rapist rapes on averages seven to 11 times before they’re caught.”
“We had many jurisdictions across the states — and you can go to endthebacklog.org — that have found these kits and are not doing anything,” she told Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer. “They’re saying it didn’t happen on our watch … I don’t know how anybody can look at this problem square in the face and say that. No one would be saying this, and you wouldn’t even have to ask that question, if we were talking about homicides … but because it’s sexual assault, for whatever reason, it’s very easy for some folks to sweep this under the rug.”
“This problem is a lot more pervasive than people could ever have imagined,” she added. “I think nationally the number is about 20 percent of rapes that are reported, and when you get to the prosecution stage it’s very, very little … that’s very sobering, very sad and very pathetic.”
One of the underlying problems behind the justice system’s underwhelming treatment of sexual assault cases, she noted, was a culture that all too often accuses women of lying about sexual assault. In “many many” cases, Worthy said, police “dismissed [victims] because of they didn’t act the way they thought they should act.” Facing inadequate government funding for testing of the rape kits, she was forced to launch the organization Enough SAID in order to raise money. Of the untested rape kits, they found that 86 percent of the victims were people of color.
“You’re not going to find too many blond-haired, blue eyed white women … Because their kits are treated differently, their cases are solved.” Worthy said. “Race is at the center of this in many ways as well, unfortunately, we know that across the criminal justice system.”
Speaking to Kaffer, Worthy also discussed the progress that had been made in the state regarding how rape kits are handled by authorities, and spoke further about why governments remain so reluctant to fund testing of rape kits.
Read the full story at The Detroit Free Press.