MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since WREG first broke the untested rape kit story five years ago, we have been following what happens to the cases, especially when they land at court. What we are finding is that time is not on the victim’s side.
The wheels of justice roll slowly for rape victims who submitted to examinations, only to have their rape kits sit untested for years.
Now prosecutors are going after suspects years after the fact, and it’s opening up a new challenge: getting victims to cooperate.
The Rape Crisis Center says it’s a tough decision.
“Many of them may have tried to put this incident out of their mind and forget it and when they are notified that more information has been gathered, then it brings it back to the surface. They may have emotional responses similar to when the rape happened,” Anna Whalley with the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center said.
Victims and witnesses are needed to prosecute the cases.
Attorney Claiborne Ferguson represents several suspects recently indicted after the latest round of rape kit testing.
“They are very old (cases) and it`s very difficult to find some of the victims in these cases. If that`s the case, of course the delay will work for the benefit of the person who is accused of being the rapist,” Ferguson said.
So the Rape Crisis Center helps victims through the process, even going with them to trial.
Timely testing of rape kits could have made it easier, but police initially denied there was a backlog when WREG exposed it.
Sixteen months after admitting the problem, less than half the kits have been sent for testing, and even fewer tested.
Suspects stayed on the streets, committing multiple crimes.
Now it’s up the victims to pursue justice.
“What we know is that most of the offenders don’t just do this one time. They tend to be habitual offenders. By going forward, these victims can help get those offenders off the street,” Whalley said.
The Rape Crisis Center is available to assist all victims no matter how long ago the sexual assault occurred. You can contact the Rape Crisis Center at 901-222-4350.