Not testing rape kits is a massive failure to take advantage of science

“Why are there so many untested rape kits in NC?” People have asked in response to an article on who initiated the rape kit inventory in NC and to posts about #endthebacklog and the documentary “I Am Evidence” that examines the problem of untested rape kits and is being shown on HBO at 8pm on 4/16/18.

The problem is there’s no rule on who foots the bill for rape kit testing across the country — it depends on the state and city you live in. 

According to “NC may have more untested rape kits now than any state. Advocates want answers.” News and Observer, 3/7/18,

“California and Florida currently are reported as having more than 13,000 untested kits.”

Looks like NC has a sordid history with not bothering to test them. According to the same N&O article on untested rape kits,

“In 2004, North Carolina inventoried 6,200 kits that piled up before the state crime lab had enough funding to test rape kits in cases without a known suspect, according to the attorney general’s office. It cleared the backlog by testing a few hundred and deeming most of them unfit for DNA analysis.”

It’s not clear why most of them would be considered “unfit for DNA analysis” in 2004, but certainly now the testing is more advanced. Should they have kept those rape kits.

Actual rape kit packaging in NC, from NC NOW State Conference, 10/21/17. Photo Credit: Catherine Evangelista

Not testing rape kits is terrible for victims in NC, because rape is a serial crime. And the pain and suffering isn’t limited to the obvious victim – but harms the family as well.

The state made the inventory report available, including data on each city/town/university and what they reported. Many places reported that they had no rape kits, especially universities around the state, some cities and some counties. For example, Fayetteville had hundreds still untested, while Cumberland County claimed they had none. One assumes Cumberland threw theirs away. We know Fayetteville had thrown some of their older ones away in the past.

Right now, “[the North Carolina state crime lab itself — where the kits are sent from police departments — has an inventory of 164 untested rape kits, the oldest one dating to July 2017.”

“Attorney General Josh Stein says that he wants all of the more than 15,000 kits tested, regardless of category. Stein has called for the tracking of the kits,” like with bar codes.

#endthebacklog

Not testing rape kits demonstrates a massive failure to take advantage of science. According to”I Am Evidence’ examines problem of untested rape kits,” cnn.com, 4/16/18,

“The fact that former Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty calls rape kits “the best bargain in the history of law enforcement” — given that one in four leads to a conviction — only makes the failure to take advantage of the science all the more frustrating.”

Testing the rape kits will take dangerous serial rapists off the streets, as has been done in Fayetteville already.

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