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LA Backtracks on Promise to Eliminate Backlog of Untested Rape Kits

LA Backtracks on Promise to Eliminate Backlog of Untested Rape Kits

When I found out that more than 20,000 rape kits go untested in the U.S every year I was horrified. How could crucial evidence with the potential to put rapists behind bars sit in a lab collecting dust? Why wasn’t there more pressure to tackle this crisis?

California, one of the nation’s biggest offenders, alone accounts for 7,000 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, but at least the state promised swift action to bring victims justice.

Well, as is often the case actions speak louder than words. LA city leaders recently announced that the 26 crime lab positions requested by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to address the county’s backlog of untested rape kits will not be funded after all.

With no funds the positions necessary to eliminate the backlog will not be filled, leaving victims waiting for justice and the greater public open to subsequent attacks as perpetrators remain free to commit further crimes.

“This announcement undermines public trust in the city’s commitment to eliminate the rape kit backlog and bring real justice to rape victims,” said Sarah Tofte, US Program researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of a March 2009 report on the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles. “The city, through the budget process, promised to hire the crime lab personnel needed to test in a timely way every booked rape kit and to upload the test results into the DNA database. The city has broken its promise.”

Not only has the city broken its promise; it has left its people vulnerable to attacks from rapists who remain free. Over 70% of rapists are repeat offenders – over 70%! Imagine how many attacks could be prevented if rape kits were tested in a timely fashion.

In the meantime the LAPD has tried to solve the backlog problem by outsourcing testing of rape kits to outside labs, but by federal law public crime lab personnel must review kits tested in private labs before they can entire the into the public DNA database. Rape kits can wait on average another 72 days before this review process takes places creating a second backlog of rape kits that will be impossible to eliminate without additional public crime lab positions.

“Merely outsourcing the rape kits does not provide justice for past, present, and future rape victims,” Tofte said. “This is a huge blow to policymakers, advocates, rape victims, and law enforcement across the country who hoped that Los Angeles would be a national model for other jurisdictions tackling their rape kit backlogs. Los Angeles is instead showing others what not to do.”

Letting rape kits with evidence that could put rapists behind bars go untested is completely unjust not to mention senseless and irrational. Eliminating the backlog of untested rape kits must become a priority nationwide, not only for those who have been victimized, but for all our safety.

What can you do to help?

Sign Care2′s petition urging your senators or representatives to sign the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 and help us reach our goal of 10,000 signatures!

More from Care2:

Woman Raped in Broad Daylight

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Photo by Patricia Williams - http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/01/15/us-los-angeles-backtracks-promise-deliver-justice-rape-victims

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42 comments

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2:49PM PST on Feb 9, 2010

It's very hard to say Thanks for such disturbing information, so I will say thanks for keeping us informed of the injustice being done to rape victims.

9:47AM PST on Feb 5, 2010

That's just horrendous, but not surprising. California can't afford anything!

12:16PM PST on Feb 2, 2010

This is a crime and needs to be treated as such!

5:17AM PST on Jan 31, 2010

our system needs to be over hauled in a real bad way.There is no way something like this should go without being finished through.Some one needs to lose their job over this and answers given as to why and fixed.

8:45PM PST on Jan 27, 2010

As I just wrote on Robin's Specter v. Bachman post, this exemplifies the insidious sexism that permeates our entire society despite our ongoing and best efforts.
I'd love to believe all of the "on hold" kits were the result of "guilty" pleas. I even almost with I were that naive.
We have a long way to go, and recognizing institutionalized sexism is a good step. Now, "all" that's left is to obviate it and its perpetuation.

2:36PM PST on Jan 27, 2010

DNA test cost money, and if the man has said yes I did the rape, no one is going to spend the money on the kit, the downside is that no one is looking to see if this is the only rape he has done! (anita)

9:10AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

the politicians of los angeles should pay attention to the demands of their constituency; we voted you in there, and we'll vote your asses out! start doing your jobs! the city council is so corrupt, it used to amaze me that no one just went in there with an ak47 to make them listen to the people!

9:05AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

get real! did you really think the government cares about violence against women? they might, but it's not a real priority right now! look how long it took for women to get the vote (and how many had to through themselves in front of vehicles to get it!); blacks could vote 50 years before women could, and you have seen how the government responds to the problems and needs of any minority! the same with the gay rights movement. guys, they practice divide and conquer and you all let them! until the minorities (african-americans, hispanics, people of asian descent, women and gays) all unite, they will continue to get away with this! original racism was started in the 1700's in this country by the affluent whites, who feared that the poor whites and the blacks would get together and rebel against them and actually take over the government and start doing things for themselves. reference: peoples history of the united states by howard zinn . . .you will be amazed by what you weren't taught in school!

9:01AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

That's the problem when you have so many illegal immigrants there. Money that should be going for things like this, is instead going to social services that help those who are not entitled to them. When you have X amount of money, and XX amount of people, priorities change.

5:46AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

Wow. Interesting Robyn L. What a mess. This is what happens I guess when people scream about the reproductive "rights" of a crack whore. You are right. Do they spend any of that money on their children or just refill the crack pipe??? Sad sad sad.

They need to find a way. The rapists are out there just laughing at what a joke this is, raping more women. But lets put a guy in jail for smoking a joint. Yup. Thats the way to do it.

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