Processed rape kits send important message to survivors

In many ways, sexual assault is the most horrendous crime, not ending a life but ending a life as it was known before, leaving lifelong scars with which a survivor must contend her or his entire life.

Those scars can heal, but, sometimes, police and prosecutors make that harder.

The Detroit office of Bridge Magazine recently reported that Wayne County had recently completed a review of 11,137 of 11,341 untested forensic evidence kits collected in reported rape cases (often referred to as a “rape kit”). Based on that review, 4,029 investigations had been closed and 224 convictions, sometimes convicting a single perpetrator of multiple rapes.

For far too long, our society has placed the burden of proof in sexual assault cases on the survivor, with police aggressively questioning survivors’ stories or, at worst, failing to even bother with asking questions and dismissing the accusations outright. That kind of attitude led to thousands of those rape kits ending up in a Detroit storage room instead of sent to a forensic lab for analysis.

For too many survivors, no one even bothered to collect evidence in the first place.

That has created a stigma that discourages many from even going to police in the first place.

Society is getting better, and the work of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and others is commendable, even if that work should have been done a long time ago.

Bringing justice in those cases, often locking away serial rapists, sends an important message to survivors that they will be believed, that our law enforcement will act on their behalf.

That’s an important message for survivors to hear, and we hope all police agencies and prosecutors follow the example of Wayne County to bring closure for survivors.

There could be any number of reasons a survivor decides not to take his or her story to police, and, ultimately, the decision is up to each individual survivor.

But, hopefully, the risk of not being taken seriously becomes less and less of a deterrent.

If you are a survivor, there is help. In Northeast Michigan, you can call Hope Shores Alliance at 989-356-2560 or visit hopeshores.org. Or, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.

You will be believed.


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