Reported rapes may be at a 20-year low, according to the FBI, but tens of thousands of rape kits still go untested in police storage facilities throughout the U.S.
In 2008, 89,000 people reported that they had been raped, in comparison to 109,062 in 1992. The reason for this decline is attributed to the use of DNA evidence in identifying suspects in stranger rape cases. Rape kits, or the physical evidence from rape victims, has also contributed to solving cases.
Reported rapes may be down, but the arrest rate for rape remains at about 30 percent of reported cases, about the same as it was 20 years ago.
WeNews commentator Sarah Tofte, who is a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the following about all those untested rape kits, “Rape victims expect that when they submit to the lengthy, invasive—and sometimes traumatic—process of collecting DNA evidence from their bodies, the information will be used to try to find and prosecute their rapists.”
The testing of a rape kit can accomplish the following: the assailant can be identified, a suspect’s contact with a victim can be confirmed, a victim’s account of the crime can be corroborated, unrelated crimes can be connected and innocent suspects can be exonerated. Something pretty amazing happened in New York City in 2003. That was the year in which the city began to test every booked rape kit. The result was that the arrest rate for rape skyrocketed, from 40 percent to 70 percent of reported cases.
The large number of untested rape kits is proof that many rape victims have not received justice. Not only have they undergone the trauma of rape, but they must live with the knowledge that their attackers are still out there.
Tofte says that a law enforcement decision to test a rape kit is a good sign that there is a commitment to build a strong investigation. National studies, according to Tofte, have shown that when a rape kit was collected, tested, and found to have DNA evidence, that rape case had a greater chance of moving forward in the criminal justice system.
Tofte states that no one know how many untested rape kits are really in existence.