Hundreds of thousands of rape kits across the U.S. containing evidence gathered from victims have lain untested for years. The reasons for the backlog, experts tell the New York Times, include constraints on finances and testing facilities, along with a slow recognition among investigators that even when the offender is known, DNA testing might reveal a pattern of serial rapes. Over the last decade, reports of large rape-kit backlogs have surfaced, often after investigations by news reporters or advocacy groups. Because many cities have resisted looking too hard or have even destroyed untested kits over time, the extent of the problem is unknown, said Sarah Tofte of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a New York group that aids victims of sexual assault and is now advising Detroit and Memphis.
Too often, women's advocates say, the kits went untested because of an uncaring and haphazard response to sexual assault charges. The issue has exploded as one city after another has discovered stockpiles of untested kits. Today, after years of pressure, a shift is beginning. Several cities have won praise for aggressive new efforts not only to submit all new rape kits for testing but also to test those in storage. In just the last year, initial testing of old kits in Detroit and Cleveland has yielded hundreds of indictments and revealed scores of repeat offenders. More than 12,000 kits in Memphis have been tested incompletely or not at all. Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has vowed to proceed with a $6.5 million plan to test the entire lot, appealing for state and private donations to help meet the cost and hoping long-promised federal aid will appear.