LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — After collecting dust for years in some cases, there’s a push to make sure backlogged rape kits in Michigan get tested.
Attorney General Bill Schuette provided an update on that effort Wednesday while recognizing April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Through these efforts we will ensure that all DNA evidence is available to solve crimes here in Michigan and, potentially nationally, bringing justice and closure to victims and their families,” he said in a statement.
>>PDF: Untested rape kits by agency
The testing can help prove who committed the act and, in some cases, reveal a link to other crimes.
“The value in running the kit is maybe not for that particular crime that the individual may have … committed, but it may be for a whole lot of other crimes that haven’t even been identified,” said Tom Cottrell, the vice president of counseling at YWCA, an organization that works to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.
Testing of backlogged rape kits took center stage in Michigan in 2009 when prosecutors in the Detroit area discovered more than 11,000 untested kits — some from as long ago as the 1980s. Millions of dollars went toward processing most of those kits. The testing revealed more than 470 links to serial rapists and connections to cases in 35 states plus Washington D.C. It also led to a state law requiring police in Michigan to submit the kits for testing within 28 days — even if detectives don’t see a need.
Cottrell said that in many cases, kits are set aside because the perpetrator confessed and was jailed, so there was no need for DNA evidence in a particular case. But he also said getting that DNA into national databases can lead to closure for victims.
“That ends up providing hopefully a different level of closure for folks maybe in other states who’ve been assaulted by that same person, to know that they’ve been arrested in Michigan and they’re being prosecuted. And they may be additionally prosecuted in those states, as well,” Cottrell said.
The Michigan State Police are working with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan to ship the untested kits to labs for testing.
Last year, Michigan received $7 million from the federal government to help state police handle untested sexual assault evidence kits and combat human trafficking, among other things. That included nearly $1.4 million from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Additionally, this year’s state budget contains $1.7 million to help test the kits.
National Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1.800.656.HOPE