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State Auditor Launches Examination Of Rape Kit Backlog

Josh James

State Auditor Adam Edelen’s office set about discovering the size and scope of the state’s backlog of untested rape kits this week. Preliminary estimates suggest the unexamined collections of biological evidence taken from sexual assault victims could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Calling the initiative the most important his office is currently undertaking, Edelen told reporters Wednesday that putting together an accurate count of the untested kits and reform recommendations could lay the groundwork for a concerted effort to fix the problem.

"We have a special and unique opportunity here to galvanize the whole of the body politic around a significant reform effort that not only will prove that victims matters but that will bring some of the worst of the criminal element to justice," he said.

The kits collect crucial biological evidence that can be matched against a national database of sex offenders. And though the exam takes a few hours to perform, getting the results from the state’s sometimes understaffed crime labs typically runs about six to nine months. In Michelle Kuiper’s case, 11 years went by.

"I just thank everyone here for what they're doing," she said, her voice quivering. "Because we are real... We are not just one of six men, or one of five women, or one of four women on campus."

Once tested, Kuiper’s kit matched the DNA on two others – evidence that eventually led to a conviction. Now, she’s hopeful Edelen’s special report will help do the same for other victims. CDC statistics from 2010 show just over a fifth of Kentucky women have been raped and nearly half have experienced some form of sexual violence.

With a count in hand, the state's forensic labs can apply for millions in federal aid to alleviate the backlog.

The auditor says he expects the results to be completed by this fall.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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