NEWARK (KPIX) — When rape victims report the crime to police, they are asked to submit to an invasive medical procedure to collect the suspect’s DNA from their bodies. The evidence collected is called a “rape kit.”
“Can you imagine the trauma of then having that rape kit sit on a shelf for years? To not have any closure and to only have that rape kit go untested?” It’s a question that Vera Ciammetti, Executive Director of Ruby’s Place women’s shelter, knows has no good answer.
Yet that’s the situation all over the country, as funding-strapped police agencies struggle to get rape evidence tested and the results entered into the FBI’s sexual predator database.
At a news conference Thursday evening there was good news. Congressman Mike Honda announced that, despite Washington’s well-publicized political gridlock, Congress’s upcoming budget will include $45 million to help law enforcement chip away at the national rape-kit testing backlog.
“We can get results. We just have to be able to work with our colleagues across the aisle and move it through,” Rep. Honda said.
The funding is in addition to $86 million provided over the past two years. Many who have followed the issue point to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley as a driving force behind the effort. She says DNA tests are essential for linking sexual predators to their victims.
“The more resources we can put out to law enforcement to get these kits tested, get these perpetrators identified –especially the serial rapists — and get them off the street, the more safe our communities will be,” O’Malley said.
It’s a daunting task. It is estimated that, across the county, there are more than half a million rape kits waiting to be analyzed.
It costs about $600 to test each kit, an expense that has been coming down as the technology improves.