In what might be one of the most disturbing stories about police indifference, as well as dereliction of duty, reports continue to leak about untested rape kits.
It might just be every rape-victim’s worst fear: police receive the rape kit evidence from medical professionals, but instead of doing anything with them, they file them away in storage, never to be seen again. Then, when the victim asks the detectives “did you find the guy?” The answer is always – of course – “no, but we are still looking.”
Without testing the rape kits, however, “looking” means little, if anything.
For years, the vast majority of national mainstream media completely overlooked the continued discoveries, one after the other, of almost thousands of rape kits that sat in storage – untested – for years.
In one of the most outrageous cases, Hollywood, Florida Police Chief Frank Fernandez said that “as far back as we could tell, all the way to 2005. It’s an alarming amount of time. It’s an alarming amount of rape kits.”
The scandal eventually led him to resign in order to take a job with Coral Gables Police Department and start over with a “clean slate.”
Rape kits contain physical evidence that has been collected by medical examiners in the aftermath of rapes.
These pieces of evidence includes, but is not limited to: bodily fluids, fibers, hair, and blood. They can also, however, include documentation such as papers, photos as well as clothing. Without cracking into these kits, how exactly do officers and detectives “keep looking for the guy who did it?”
The short answer is… they don’t.
These kits are absolutely essential to matching DNA to suspects. Without them, convictions are often impossible, but more fundamentally, finding the culprit is impossible.
In a high profile case of police sitting on untested rape kits, Carol Bart saw Texas police ignore the evidence in her rape kit for almost 20 years. Once they finally revisited the kit and its evidence, they were able to identify the rapist who victimized Bart, but by then the statute of limitations was up and he could not be prosecuted.