In our last post, we began speaking about rape kits and how the evidence is gathered with the use of these kits. We also mentioned the importance of maintaining chain of custody with respect to rape kits. What happens after a rape kit has been utilized depends on whether the victim reports the rape allegations to the police. If the victim does report those allegations, police take the kit to a crime lab for testing.
It is fairly well known that rape kit testing is not something that always happens right away, even when the victim immediately reports the crime. In a good many cases, police store away the evidence and leave it for a long time, contributing to a backlog. Here in Maryland, the backlog of untested rape kits is significant enough that lawmakers recently passed a new law which requires law enforcement agencies to take inventory of backlogged kits in storage. The idea is to help assess the extent of the backlog so as to come up with a strategy to clear it out more effectively.
Part of the reason for the delay in testing rape kits is that doing so is expensive, costing roughly $1,000 per kit. The political pressure to get rape kit backlogs cleared out has been growing, though, not only here in Maryland, but nationwide. Rape survivors and their supporters are increasingly calling for more public dollars to be spent on rape kit testing.
It is important for those accused of sexual assault to be aware of how rape kits fit into the prosecution of sexual assault cases, and what they can do to build a solid defense around potential issues with these kits. In our next post, we’ll say a bit more about this.