Categories:  'Criminal Justice & Incarceration Society'   'Gender Inequality'  

Detroit Businesswomen Take the Lead on Testing Rape Kits

In recent years, in jurisdictions across the country, investigators and private citizens have brought attention to enormous backlogs of untested rape kits. A rape kit [...]

In recent years, in jurisdictions across the country, investigators and private citizens have brought attention to enormous backlogs of untested rape kits. A rape kit is used by medical personnel and law enforcement “to collect and store DNA evidence obtained from sexual assault survivors,” and for many, the vast backlog of untested kits revealed our society’s attitudes towards survivors of sexual assault.

In 2009, a prosecuting attorney for Wayne County, Michigan found “thousands of rape kits stacked on the shelves of a Detroit Police Department storage facility,” some dating back thirty years or more. Though the statute of limitations had passed for many of the cases, “Kym L. Worthy, the head of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office” resolved to get the kits tested, and to pursue justice for as many of the survivors as possible.

In the face of a major financial crisis – the city of Detroit was entering bankruptcy – Worthy called on public and private leaders to help fund the effort. When word got out to Detroit-area businesswomen about the backlog of rape kits, “a public-private initiative called Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit) was created, … using private fund-raising as a way to address a criminal justice crisis. Enough SAID also sought and received millions of dollars in local, state and federal grant money for kit-testing and investigators.”

Some disagreed with using private funding above and beyond taxes to support the government’s work, but many business leaders saw it as an investment in their city – economic development requires that people feel safe on the streets.

The work of Enough SAID and other activists led to Michigan’s passage in 2014 of a law “requiring investigators to test rape kits within 90 days, ensuring that there would not be another backlog of untested kits.”

 

Image Credit: From left, Darci McConnell, Joanna Cline, Peg Tallet, Kim Trent and Kym Worthy, some of the leaders of Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit). Credit: Laura McDermott for The New York Times

Articles

Publication Date: 07/11/2015
Source: The New York Times
Author: Claire Martin