Thousands of untested rape kits are forcing Washington State sexual assault victims to wait years for justice.
On Thursday, KIRO 7 learned of a new plan to speed the testing process, as the backlog continues to grow.
“We still have cases coming in, every single day,” Captain Monica Alexander of the Washington State Patrol said.
Alexander called the scientists at the WSP’s five multi-service crime laboratories throughout the state exceptional, but “overwhelmed;” especially by the growing backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
As a result, when lawmakers return to Olympia next week, State Representative Tina Orwall of Des Moines will ask the legislature for $6 million to speed the processing timeline from 12 months to 45 days.
For the thousands of sexual assault victims in Washington State, their untested rape kits are not only a slap in the face but potential evidence that could prevent future crimes.
“When we process those kits and upload them in CODIS, we catch other criminals,” Alexander explained. “We might catch a serial rapist, so it’s really important” for the kits to be processed quickly, she said.
Despite local and federal funding recently, more than 8,000 sexual assault kits are still waiting to be processed, according to Alexander.
Representative Orwall’s Bill – which hasn’t yet been written or named --- will propose state funding to expand the existing State Patrol crime lab in Vancouver to include additional technicians, equipment, even robots.
The goal, according to Alexander and Orwall, is to streamline our state’s rape kit testing process down to about 45-days and eventually work through the entire backlog.
“Right now, when a kit comes in, it’s taking 8-months to a year” to process, Orwall told KIRO 7. “We need a sense of urgency.”
Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Center agrees that testing rape kits expeditiously sends a message to victims “if this happens to you, and you go get an exam and collect evidence, we are going to make sure that we treat this respectfully and efficiently.”
“There’s a sense of urgency to identify who these perpetrators are and really seek justice,” Stone added.
Alexander said, without the proposed funding “I think it’s going to take a very, very long time” to clear all of the state’s untested sexual assault kits.
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