Missouri Attorney General announces rape kit backlog investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only six out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Nationwide, thousands of rape kits go unprocessed. 

Missouri will now join 32 other states in an audit of backlogged rape kits. The announcement from Attorney General Josh Hawley comes after a report that the state has never once done a statewide review of untested rape kits. 

The exact number of those unprocessed is still unknown. 

According to RAINN, every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Many of those cases go unsolved because of a rape kit backlog. 

“There are kits that are never requested to be tested by law enforcement for one reason or another," said Victoria Pickering with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. 

Nationwide, Pickering said it could take months or even years for a kit to be tested. She said that’s also the case in the state of Missouri. 

“Finding out that one kit hasn’t been tested, particularly if it’s a kit that a survivor thought was being tested, is alarming," said Pickering. 

Not only does the backlog hinder an investigation, but it also can affect the healing process of a survivor. That’s why Hawley is working to solve rape victims’ cases by conducting this investigation. 

“Our first thought was that it’s a great idea," said Pickering. 

In 2016, the state of Kansas went through an audit. During that time, Pickering worked on the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

“It was a really eye-opening process," said Pickering. 

They found 2,200 kits had been unprocessed. Now, those kits are all being tested. Pickering said their work was more than just tackling the backlog issue.

“To learn from what happened in the past and prevent a future backlog from ever occurring," said Pickering. 

Now, Pickering is hoping the state of Missouri can do the same. 

“Testing backlogged kits may not result in every case being prosecuted, but what it may do is help us to identify and hold accountable those who are responsible for assaulting multiple people," said Pickering. 

Hawley said the investigation will help to determine the scope of the problem, agencies responsible, and ways the state can implement change. He said his office will start by interviewing hospitals, law enforcement, and crime labs. 

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