Over the past month, I’ve come across numerous media stories about an issue that shocked me and I think the power of tumblr, and social media at large, can make a difference. It’s a national issue but I’m focused on Detroit because that’s where I live and, frankly, Detroit isn’t a city that’s going to be able to find the funds to fix this travesty on it’s own.
Please read, REBLOG and help if you can.
On 2/15, Rock Center covered a story about the 11,000 untested rape kits in Detroit and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy’s mission to get these kits tested. You can read more/see the clip here: Prosecutor leads effort to test long-abandoned rape kits, brings justice to victims.
On 3/13, Kym Worthy was a special guest at a National Press Club luncheon where the topic was untested rape kits. Mariska Hargitay, of Law & Order SVU, was the keynote speaker. The entire talk is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOE4x6hfSxE. (Detroit is addressed around the 19:25 mark.)
I encourage you to watch to Hargitay’s entire address. It really gets at the heart of the issue in an engaging and compelling way. That said, knowing we live in a soundbite culture below are the critical details.
The Issue & some compelling stats:
- Rape kits are collected from victims of sexual assault and, quite often, hold the information (read: DNA) needed to catch and convict the perpetrator.
- When a victim has the courage to come forward and report a rape, it can take anywhere from 4- 6 hours to collect evidence from the victim’s body.
- What often happens next? That evidence sits on a shelf, untested and unused. Sometimes for DECADES.
- New York has cleared their backlog of 17,000 rape kits and LA cleared their backlog of more than 12,700 rape kits.
- New York now tests every kit and the arrest rate for rape jumped from 40% to 70% (!!!) compared with only 24% nationally.
- In 2009, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy discovered that Detroit had 11,000 untested rape kits going back well over a decade.
- 400 kits were tested as a pilot program in 2009 and another 389 were tested recently using private funding. Of the kits tested, there were 106 DNA hits in CODIS and law enforcement identified 29 serial rapists.
- Working with National Institute of Justice, Detroit is starting to address the backlog but, for obvious reasons, it’s cost prohibitive for Detroit to self fund this initiative. Nearly 10,000 kits remain untested and, at $1000- $1500/kit, it will cost $10- $15MM to test all of the kits. That doesn’t account for the additional investment to follow-up on any leads.
How you can help:
The Detroit Crime Commission is raising money for the Detroit Rape Kit Initiative to clear the backlog of rape kits.
As of mid-March they raised ~$40,000. It’s a great start but not nearly enough. Let’s spread the word! REBLOG. Share on twitter and facebook. Donate if you can!
Not sure why this matters?
- Testing existing rape kits can prevent future crimes. According to the Rock Center article, “one kit from 2002 revealed DNA belonging to a man who was in prison for the murder of three women. The murders had been committed during the seven years the rape kit sat on a warehouse shelf.”
- Reports of sexual assault are dismally low. Awareness that we won’t stand for sexual assault will help encourage and empower victims to come forward and report current/future crimes.
- There are amazing things happening in Detroit but we have to make the city safe. Testing rape kits will help get rapists off the street.
- It’s the right thing to do.
I hope I’ve convinced you that a) this is important and b) you can help. Whether it’s a reblog or a $5 donation, any action you take DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE and it makes an important statement about how we treat victims of sexual assault and their assailants.
Spread the word! Donate if you can! REBLOG.