(Memphis) Memphis is on its way to testing rape kits, and it’s not the only city dealing with a backlog.
Detroit had a similar problem, and found serial rapists were walking free because of untested rape kits in that city.
Victims’ advocates believe Memphis has the same problem.
Just like in Memphis, untested rape kits sat gathering dust on shelves in Detroit for decades.
In 2009, the Wayne County District Attorney’s Office found more than 11,000 forgotten rape kits sitting in a police storage facility.
In five years, they only managed to test 1,600, but identified 127 serial rapists!
“When they started coming in, I was very surprised,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
What surprised her the most was those rapists were connected to victims in 24 other states, including Tennessee and Arkansas.
“You’re talking almost half of the states in the United States,” Worthy said.
Turns out, rapists crisscrossed the country, raping women and walking free.
“It’s frustrating and at times it’s really devastating, because when you know there are untested kits just sitting there, and nothing is being done about it,” Sarah Tofte, who works with cities across the country with rape kit backlogs.”
She’s vice president of the Joyful Heart Foundation.
Memphis called her in to help last year.
She says, sadly, it’s common for cities to ignore backlogs even after knowing about them.
Memphis sat on its information for years after WREG alerted the city to its screw-up in 2010.
At the time, police called our reports outrageous and sensational.
“We see that in lots of cities and states across the country. That there is often a bit of a gap to when they are alerted and when they fully, publicly acknowledge it and take responsibility.”
In the meantime, offenders continued to go free to commit crimes.
Memphis is slowly trying to test 12,000 kits forgotten about for decades, but it’s a struggle because the Tennessee legislature refused to give any additional money to test rape kits.
“That is tragic. I wish I could have come and testified and told them our stories,” Worthy said.
Because behind every rape kit is a story, a violent one that changed a life forever.
Worthy says when the governor of Michigan realized that, he and the state’s attorney general asked the legislature to write a $4 million check so Detroit could fund rape kit testing.
“They are the ones who came up with the idea providing the 4 million to Michigan State Police for testing. They are the ones who came up with that and the money. So I have to give them full credit for that,” Worthy said.
Ohio also stepped up to help with testing for a rape kit backlog in Cleveland.
Reporter: “Cleveland came up with testing again from the state.”
Reporter: “We are seeing a trend.”
Tofte: “We are seeing a trend here, and that is why I think what happened in Nashville when they declined to allocate resources this year is so disappointing.”
While some may think it’s a Memphis problem, as Detroit’s results show, rape doesn’t have borders.
“They have gone on to rape in half of the United States. And if that doesn’t appeal to people, I don’t know what will,” Worthy said. “Nobody is safe.”
Thousands of kits remain to be tested in Memphis.