More than 400,000 rape kits that have been backlogged across the country will finally get tested starting this October, thanks to a $41 million initiative launched by the White House. Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the plan during a visit to a Maryland State Police laboratory on Monday.
“Law enforcement and health professionals will be in better position to handle rape cases,” Biden said, adding that during a recent trip to Philadelphia, he saw hundreds of untested rape kits sitting on shelves. “Studies show if rape kits were tested, based on statistical analysis we could solve 50% of rapes that are now happening. Repeat offenders commit over 90% of all rapes committed in the country. Think of rapes that could be prevented if these kits were tested.”
Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, as well as Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, joined the vice president at the event.
“The horrific statistic from the CDC [is that] one in four women will face rape or physical violence or stalking,” Mikulski said. “The system doesn’t follow through.” She added that the lawmakers are working clear the backlog of rape kits and keep predators off the street.
Helen Lazaro, a rape survivor, was abducted in 1996, when she was 17 years old. “This program will give communities help they need,” she said. “We also know funding will not eliminate backlog. Those are not just statistics, each is a survivor, like me. I ask that congress continue to invest in this issue.”
Biden, who is well known for introducing the landmark Violence Against Women Act in 1994, pointed out that Detroit alone had a backlog of 11,000 cases. In January of this year, he added, the city was able to test 2,000 of those, and “found 760 DNA matches leading to the identification of serial offenders.” Of those 760, 20 were linked to crimes in other states, as well.
“The single most important thing for healing is closure,” Biden said. “Being able to identify and for the world to know it’s not longer he said, she said, but for the world to be able to know this actually happened because women continue to be victimized by the process.”