Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 24, 2014

Bills seek to tackle backlog of untested rape kits

(Continued)

But Ybos, who is also supporting a proposal to lift Tennessee’s eight-year statute of limitation on rapes, said it shouldn’t have taken her that long to get justice.

“They never tried to process it until I called ... and asked them,” Ybos said of her rape kit.

A spokeswoman for the Memphis Police Department recently told The Associated Press that she couldn’t comment about the backlog because the department is in the middle of litigation concerning a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of women whose rape kits haven’t been tested.

But when asked about the situation at an event earlier this month, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton didn’t mince words.

“We had a systemic failure here,” he said of the backlog.

Last year, Congress officially recognized the backlog of untested rape kits as a national problem in passing the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, or SAFER, which seeks to provide data on the number of unsolved rape cases awaiting testing and establish better standards for the tracking, storage and use of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases.

The federal government is also providing funding to help cover the costs for testing the kits, which usually contain swabs, evidence envelopes and information sheets detailing the examination. They cost at least $500 to test, a process that involves several steps, including determining whether there’s sufficient material from which a subsequent DNA test may derive a reliable sample.

In 2003, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received a grant for more than $3 million to test rape kits. TBI spokeswoman Illana Tate said the agency solicited kits from all law enforcement agencies in Tennessee, but she doesn’t know exactly how many were submitted.

Wharton has asked the Memphis City Council for a million dollars to help with the backlog. He said a little over 2,000 of the kits have been sent to laboratories, and that it could take up to five years for all the kits to be tested.

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