Despite a years-long, national push to collect, process, and catalog DNA evidence from sexual assaults, police in Maryland have left more than 3,500 rape kits untested. Advocates for rape victims say that number shows that police are not investigating all complaints of sexual assault thoroughly, the Baltimore Sun reports. “More than any other crime, sexual assault survivors are often disbelieved or blamed for what happened to them,” said Ilse Knecht of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national nonprofit that advocates for counting and testing all kits. “That definitely plays into this process of not fully investigating cases. There sometimes is a bias that comes in that kind of shuts that door too quickly, and those cases are just put on a shelf.”
Police and prosecutors say that testing the kits in many cases does not advance an investigation, especially when the victim and perpetrator know each other. “If there’s no issue about who the person is, then DNA doesn’t really contribute anything,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger. The state General Assembly required police departments to report their numbers this year to the attorney general’s office and to explain why kits remained untested. The Sun obtained their responses through the state public information law. Police departments gave several reasons for not testing kits: A victim declines to pursue charges, or prosecutors decide against taking the case. The victim already knew the suspect, or wanted to remain anonymous.