Injustice takes many forms in our society, and one of its most cruel is our legal system’s treatment of rape victims. Not only is rape under prosecuted and devastatingly traumatic, the victim often seems to be offered little in terms of closure. Currently in the United States, there is an estimated 400,000 rape kits that remain untested; that is 400,000 people (mostly women) denied the opportunity to seek out justice for the crime committed against them.
Exposure regarding this issue first came to light in 2009, when an assistant prosecutor in Detroit uncovered 11,304 untested rape kits dating back to the 1980s. Since then, Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, has been pushing to change that number. According to a CNN report, currently 2,000 have been tested and 8,000 are in the process of being tested. Already 188 serial rapists have been uncovered, some 30-years too late.
One such case was of Detroit resident, Paula Perry, who was abducted and assaulted on January 23, 2011. After her attacker released her, she went to Henry Ford Hospital for a rape kit. It was not processed. Several months later, her attacker was picked up for attempting to abduct another woman in Ohio. Perry was then called in to pick him out of a line up, after which she learned her kit had not yet been processed.
According to city, the reason for all of these untested kits is money; they simply cannot afford to process all of these cases or prosecute them. As a result, Kym Worthy has teamed up with two organizations- The Michigan Women’s Foundation and The Detroit Crime Commission-to raise $10 million to continue testing these kits through their organization, Enough SAID (Sexual Assault In Detroit).
On a federal level, Vice President Joe Biden wants to use $41 million in federal funds to clear the backlog of untested kits around the country: “Testing rape kits should be an absolute priority for the United States of America: It works, it matters, it brings closure, it brings justice and that’s why we’re here.”
Going through a rape kit is not pleasant and can often take from four to ten hours. The women who subject themselves to the invasive exam should presume that their efforts be rewarded in some form. Citing budget constraints is inexcusable. Victims of rape have the right for their voices to be heard and to a reasonable expectation of justice.
Image c/o Todd Wiseman