DNA evidence from a rape victim’s body is collected in a “rape kit,” as featured in this week’s episode of Law & Order Special Victims Unit. Human Rights Watch works to ensure these kits are tested in crime labs, bringing victims closer to justice. Watch: Wednesday, September 29 · 9/8c on NBC
Currently, US law doesn’t require that rape kits be tested.
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"Testing rape kits sends victims the message that their cases matter, and tells perpetrators they will not get away with rape. Not testing kits sends the opposite message."
~ Mariska Hargitay
Pressuring local government and police departments has proven effective. In 2009, Human Rights Watch uncovered more than 12,500 untested rape kits in Los Angeles, which compelled the Los Angeles Police Department to begin requiring timely testing for every rape kit.
In Illinois, roughly 80% of rape kits remain untested. Our exposure of this backlog inspired new legislation making Illinois the first US state to require sending every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. While the labs will need extra resources to handle the flood of kits, this is an important step.
This problem exists around the country. According to CBS News, police in Detroit have 5,600 untested kits, with another 3,800 in Houston,1,100 in Albuquerque, and 5,100 in San Antonio. At least 12 major US cities, from Phoenix to Columbus, have no idea how many rape kits languish untested in storage.
Human Rights Watch is pressing the US government to implement federal legislation to help eliminate the rape kit backlog. By making DNA testing a priority, we can exonerate innocent suspects, identify perpetrators, and offer justice to rape victims across the country.
Fact: Every two minutes someone is raped in the United States.
Fact: 200,000+ rape kits sit untested in police storage in the United States.
Fact: Testing rape kits leads to more arrests. New York City’s arrest rate for rape jumped to 70 percent from 40 percent when it began testing all rape kits.
Read the report on California
Read the report on Illinois