Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has taught us many things, but the speed at which Detective Olivia Benson gets rape kit test results is definitely something of a fiction. The United States has a major rape kit test backlog, and Vice President Joe Biden wants to end it. During a Monday press conference at a state police laboratory in Pikesville, Maryland, Biden spoke about a $41 million White House initiative that aims to reduce the backlog and help solve rape crimes nationwide.
Biden said that testing rape kits, which are collections of bodily fluids, fibers, or forensic evidence left behind by a sexual assault perpetrator, should be a priority for the United States because it's a proven process that provides closure and justice to victims.
If we are able to test these rape kits, more crimes will be solved, more crimes will be prevented, and more women will be given back their lives.
He added that he saw hundreds of untested kits during a recent trip to Philadelphia and cited studies that said if more rape kits were tested, then more sexual assault crimes would be solved.
Studies show if rape kits were tested, based on statistical analysis we could solve 50 percent of rapes that are now happening. Repeat offenders commit over 90 percent of all rapes committed in the country. Think of rapes that could be prevented if these kits were tested.
Law enforcement agencies would be able to access the federal funding, which already has Congress' stamp of approval, by applying for grants. Half of the funding would go toward reducing kit pileup, while the rest would go toward prosecuting sexual assault perpetrators, according to CBS News. Apart from the $41 million set aside for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, President Obama's proposed 2016 federal budget also includes an additional $20 million for the Justice Department to research new strategies for reducing backlogs.
The Justice Department last year estimated that up to 400,000 rape kits in the United States have not been tested. In Detroit, prosecutor Kym Worthy was shocked when she discovered 11,000 unsorted rape kits in a police warehouse, some dating back 20 years. The city of Memphis, Tennessee, was sued for losing 15,000 rape kits in 2013.
Everyone deserves due process, especially victims of a sexual assault. Paperwork shouldn't be a reason why a crime can't be solved. Hopefully this multimillion-dollar fund will help whittle away years from the rape kit backlog and give victims the justice they deserve.