rape kit ties corrections officer to assault of child 14 years ago

In another display of how important it is to test all rape kits, a corrections officer in Illinois was just charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old in 1997 … after a rape kit that was part of a local backlog was finally tested.

The 2010 Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act required the state to collect data on all untested rape kits in the state. In March, the state announced it has 4,126 sexual assault cases connected to untested rape kits.

NJP’s work to end backlog covered in Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, and more

NJP is in the news today!  The Wall St. Journal, the Washington Post, Forbes, and the Huffington Post are all covering our work to determine the precise extent of the rape kit backlog.

Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post story (and you can read all the articles at the links above):

A recently formed organization that contends there is a nationwide backlog of untested rape kits announced Monday it was teaming with a New York university to try to figure out how many are sitting on police department shelves as a first step in clearing the logjam.

Natasha’s Justice Project, based on New York’s Long Island, believes there could be as many as 180,000 untested rape kits in the U.S., said founder Natasha Alexenko. Her group, Stony Brook University researchers and a consulting firm named Strategic Planning will try to determine what the number really is, Alexenko said.

A May report by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Justice Department, said the exact number of unanalyzed sex assault kits nationally is not known, in part because of an “antiquated process” of reporting in many jurisdictions.

The institute’s survey found that 43 percent of law enforcement agencies lack a computerized system for tracking forensic evidence. It also found that in 18 percent of unsolved sexual assault cases between 2002 and 2007, forensic evidence was collected but never submitted for analysis.

Calif. Senate passes rape kit testing bill

On Tuesday night, the California State Senate passed a bill that will require the testing of all rape kits in counties where fewer than 12% of forcible rape cases result in arrests.

If the bill becomes law, it will also require that police report back to the Department of Justice about how many rape kits they collect and how many are tested.

The bill’s author, state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, told the Pasadena Star News: “It’s unconscionable that thousands of rape kits remain unopened and untested across California. Rape kits hold vital evidence that is crucial to a criminal conviction.”

Here’s a photo of NJP’s Natasha Alexenko with our research assistants, Tia Palermo of Stony Brook University and statistician Michael Dawidziak. We’re working together on a comprehensive study to determine the number of untested rape kits in the U.S. — and strategic plans to get them tested and end the backlog.

“Don’t Be That Guy” anti-rape ads launched in Ottawa

A new anti-rape campaign being launched in Ottawa, Canada is built around a message to men: “Don’t be that guy.”

The ads, which speak specifically to the role that alcohol sometimes plays in sexual assault and are being placed in men’s bathrooms in bars and other locations where young people gather,  feature messages like:

“Just because she isn’t saying no … doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.”
“Just because you help her home … doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.”

Crime Prevention Ottawa, which is running the campaign, says: “For years we’ve been telling young women that it’s up to them to avoid sexual assault. This campaign breaks the mold by speaking directly to young men. The images are intentionally graphic to emphasize the bottom line, which is that sex without consent is sexual assault. And being drunk is no excuse for committing a violent crime.”

You can download the posters here.

college campuses revising sexual assault policies

Marquette University is one of many colleges addressing and revising their sexual assault policies to more closely follow the guidelines released by the United States Department of Education last April.

Marquette is implementing a rapid response team for sexual assault incidents, establishing a full-time victims’ advocate on campus, revising procedures for communicating with the Milwaukee Police Department, and offering an online course about sexual misconduct, which RAs and student leadership groups are using.

If you’re a college student, find out what your campus’s policies are on sexual assault … and consider working with your administration if changes are needed.

DNA hit convicts man in 17-year-old rape case

Last week, an Orleans Parrish jury in Louisiana found Troy Taylor guilty of forcible rape and second-degree kidnapping for a crime committed 17 years ago. A hit through the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) matched Taylor to the 1994 rape of a then-18-year-old victim.  Taylor’s DNA was taken after an unrelated arrest in 2009.

Two things are notable about this case: First, DNA information must be entered into CODIS for any crime where it’s collected. Second, backlogged kits can and do solve crimes!