(Memphis) A Jane Doe has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the City of Memphis.
The lawsuit says sexual assault victims’ civil rights were violated because of the Memphis Police Department’s backlog of rape kits.
In November, MPD Director Toney Armstrong revealed there were more than 12,000 untested rape kits.
The suit states that the “City of Memphis failed to submit over 15,000 such sexual assault kits for further testing and caused the spoliation of the sexual assault kits all of which resulted in damages to the Plaintiff and the putative class which constitutes a violation of the equal protection clauses of the Tennessee and United States constitutions.”
According to the suit, the Jane Doe was sexually assaulted by an intruder, and then her sexual assault evidence kit went untested for 13 years.
The suit alleges that the city “had a policy, practice and/or custom of failing to submit sexual assault evidence kits for testing.”
It also states that the city’s “deliberate indifference, willful and wanton conduct created a danger of an increased risk of harm to the victims of sexual abuse, which are disproportionately females, by failing to investigate sexual assault crimes.”
The suit alleges the reason so many kits weren’t tested was because most of the victims were female and that the city “has a history of discriminating against females.
Defendent treats domestic violence abuse reports from women with less priority than other crimes not involving women reporting domestic violence abuse.”
The attorney who filed the suit, Robert Spence, said, “It was for decades they treated women this way.”
In its request for preliminary and permanent injunctions, the suit states, “There is no harm to the public interest if an injunction issues, and, in fact, the issuance of an injunction under the circumstances and facts of this case protects the public interest.”
Mayor A C Wharton recently said a time limit for testing would help prevent kits from going untested, and has asked lawmakers to change the rules.
“We think there should be no confusion whatsoever,” he said. “You get a kit in without regard whether its his responsibility, her responsibility. It has to be tested within 30, not to exceed 30 days.”
Armstrong said, “I certainly welcome any and all legislation that holds me accountable as a director and holds investigators accountable so it doesn’t happen again.”
One rape survivor said she’s thrilled about the suit and glad women are standing up.”You don’t get a pass for violating constitutional rights,” Spense said.