As Detroit chips away at the backlog of 11,000 untested rape kits discovered in a police storage facility five years ago, the result is undeniable: Around 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists have been identified via DNA evidence contained in the first 1,600 kits.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who first pushed for the thousands of rape kits to be tested when they were found in 2009, and Law & order: Special Victims Unit star and activist Mariska Hargitay announced legislation that would stem the backlog by creating testing guidelines during a press conference in Michigan’s largest city Monday.
Hargitay called the backlog “mind-blowing.”
“My head exploded,” she said. “We have the means to do it and DNA equals justice.”
More than 400,000 rape kits are untested nationwide, according to estimates from the Department of Justice. Only Texas, Colorado, and Illinois require authorities to even account for the number of untested kits in their possession. But laws to address the backlog, including imposing a maximum amount of time that kit can go untested, are underway in more than a dozen states.
The DOJ pushed to address Detroit’s backlog in 2011 by funding case studies there and in Houston, Texas, to figure out why so many cases have gone untested. The cost of examining each kit can range from $500 to $1500, and law enforcement officials have pointed to a shortage of funding and resources as causes for the backlog.