The Hill

3,000 Open Sexual Assault Cases In Detroit To Be Investigated Under New Partnership

Scales of justice
An estimated 3,000 rape kits will finally be tested in Detroit's Wayne County after the prosecutor's office secures new partnership and funds. Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 2.0

Detroit’s Wayne County Prosecutor’s office announced a new campaign to raise $10 million in an effort to solve untested rape kits.

Jezebel reported the campaign is called Enough SAID (Sexual Assault In Detroit) — and it’s an independent collaboration with the Michigan’s Women’s Foundation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Detroit Crime Commission. According to the campaign’s website, “the goal of this collaboration is to raise private sector funding to test more than 11,000 forgotten rape kits, investigate the crimes and prosecute the resulting cases, thus securing justice and closure for victims, and ensuring a safer community for everyone.” Private foundations are financing the infrasture, so 100 percent of donations go directly to their cause.

Five years ago, the prosceutor’s office discovered 11,000 untested rape kits in an abandonded storage unit; an estimated 3,000 kits remain. Jezebel added despite the $4 million Michigan allocated in 2013, it wasn’t enough to push these cases through. Carolyn Cassin, president & CEO of MWF said the campaign is representative of the nation’s first efforts to right this wrong. “It is, in our world, a critical statement that crimes against women will not be brushed aside or diminished in any way,” she said.

The campaign arrives after years of effort by Kym Worthy, prosecutor of Wayne County. She has also been a victim of rape, though she’s said it doesn’t give or take away from her existing passion to solve these cases.

Rape kits are also known as SAFE kits, short for Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence. While rape kits are an effective tool to collect evidence of sexual contact and clues to the victim’s perpetrator’s identity, they frequently go untested. The Rape Kit Action Project, in collaboration with the National Center for Victims of Crimes, Natasha’s Justice Project, and the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) is devoted to promoting laws that ensure backlogged rape kits are accounted for and analyzed, in addition to new rape kits being sent for testing in a timely manner.

Last year, President Obama’s 2015 budget included a grant program to test more rape kits and improve sexual assault investigations. The $35 million was slated for inventory and test rape kits, as well as developing “cold case” units to pursue new investigative leads. Untested and improperly stored rape kits unnecessarily delay justice for rape victims. Worse, it allows rapists to continue sexually assaulting women.

"The impact of moving forward to create a sexual assault-free Detroit is critical to the region's revitalization," said Peg Tallet, working on behalf of MWF. "A safe and healthy Detroit will bring about significant economic benefits to the entire region."

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