It’s difficult enough for rape victims to come forward and report the crime after being violated and shamed. But never getting closure due to a backlog of untested rape kits only adds to the pain and devastation of being sexually assaulted.
Now, the Obama administration and the New York City district attorney have teamed up to do something about it by implementing a $79 million effort to speed up the testing and clear the backlog of untested kits in 27 states, reports TheHill.com.
“When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement in reference to the $41 million federal government grants and $38 million New York will provide.
“The grants we’re announcing today to reduce the national rape kit backlog will bring that sense of closure and safety to victims while improving community safety,” he added.
When rape kits are tested, 50 percent of cases are solved, Biden claimed. So this could mean bringing closure to countless victims who have had to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives knowing that their perpetrator was living freely.
After all, survivors of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and 13 to 26 times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, according to the Rape Crisis Center. Additionally, victims —14.6 percent of whom are Hispanic women — are 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
According to surviverrape.org, a rape kit is a box that has 16 separate steps to collect evidence and has a unique number assigned to it that the survivor receives a copy of.
The exam includes survivors providing verbal accounts of the assault so medical providers know where to look for evidence on their body. Survivors may also be treated for injuries like bruises, lacerations, and broken bones, and could be asked to provide samples from their mouth, vaginal and/or anal cavities, fingernails, and other parts of the body the rapists touched during the assault.
If there are signs they were drugged, a toxicology kit could be included as well. It’s necessary that the survivor is candid about their sexual life and whether or not they engaged in consensual sex within the past five days from the exam, which helps distinguish DNA left by a partner and the perpetrator.
But the biggest step is reporting the crime to police. Sexual assault — which occurs every two minutes in the United States — is one of the most underreported crimes, with an average of only 39 percent reported, according to the Rape Crisis Center. If it’s not reported the rape kits won’t be analyzed by the crime lab they’re sent to.
“There’s so much more we should be doing beyond rape kits to protect women in America – don’t give up hope,” Biden said.