Government officials announced on September 7th, 2016, that there is a shocking number of rape kits that are sitting untested throughout the state of Pennsylvania – which means that rapists who could have potentially been identified based on DNA evidence are free to roam.
What Is A Rape Kit?
A rape kit is a kit used by doctors and nurses during a rape exam. It contains a checklist, forensic exam materials, envelopes, sealed containers, and packaging. Victims are allowed to decline a rape exam but if they agree, they will undergo a physical exam so that evidence can be collected. The DNA evidence it can provide is frequently the best way to prove the identity of a rapist.
In order to obtain the best samples, victims are encouraged to avoid:
- Using the restroom
- Changing clothing
- Brushing their hair
- Washing their hands
During the exam, the patient can expect:
- Medical treatment for any injuries: The the most important thing is to get the medical care you need.
- To give a medical history: This may seem odd but it is an important part of receiving medical treatment and it is also important for investigators to know if any other evidence collected could belong to a loved one with whom the victim shared consensual relations.
- A physical exam: The exam will likely include taking photographs, swabs, hair samples, blood and urine samples.
- Instructions for follow-up care: Doctors may recommend you seek additional medical care or testing in the weeks or months after the initial exam.
The exam and rape kit are free of charge. Just because the kit is taken doesn’t mean that the victim needs to decide right away if they want to press charges, although they should be made aware of the statute of limitations.
Why Are Rapes Kits Remaining Untested?
The Health Department has reported that over 330 police departments have reported a backlog of nearly 3000 rape kits that hadn’t been delivered to a lab and another 1800 that have yet to be tested, despite the fact that a new law requires the police to pick up a kit within three days of being notified by the hospital. Once the kit is in police possession, it must be taken to the lab within 15 days.
The three main labs have also reported that in order to improve the time it takes to process a kit, they will need additional funding so that they can hire more employees.
Several officials are working to find a way to provide the funding and to set up a hotline that a hospital can call if they have a kit that hasn’t been picked up in the 3-day period.
Time and time again our clients come to us after struggling internally for a long time after their attack. This is completely normal – the decision to pursue legal action is a deeply personal and stressful one. The most important thing to remember while you consider your options is that you are not alone. There are organizations that exist to provide support for the victims of sexual assault including:
- RAINN – you can get help 24/7 through their National Sexual Assault Hotline.
- Joyful Heart Foundation
- National Center On Domestic And Sexual Violence
Victims are able to pursue justice and remain anonymous at the same time, like the woman who pressed charges against Brock Turner and whose personal statement to the court brought the issue of victim-blaming to the attention of the nation.
If you have any questions about your legal rights, please contact us. Our goal is to make sure that you feel supported, respected, and safe from the very beginning.