Backlog of thousands of rape kits to be tested

News

More than 6,000 women in Clark County have survived sexual assault nightmares only to have their rape kit sit in a vault somewhere, untested.

But, that will change.

Nevada now has $5.6 million in grant money to pay for crime-lab processing of rape kits on backlog.

A Rape kits contains evidence and biological specimens collected from people who say they were sexually assaulted. But a lack of resources means many remain untested, and cases remain unsolved.

For a rape victim, it’s disturbing to know a predator could still be preying on others.

There are 7,500 rape kits on backlog statewide, with 6,300 in Clark County.

“Those samples represent a person, a friend, a sister, a brother,” said Daniele Dreitzer, Rape Crisis Center.

 Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Thursday that Nevada would get up to $2 million from the White House and the New York City prosecutor’s office. His office also plans to apply $1.7 million it received in a settlement toward the cause, and Las Vegas police announced they were getting $2 million of their own.

“If we’re able to link case to case and prove a pattern, it will get some really dangerous people off the streets,” Dreitzer said.

But Nevada has no process in place to keep from falling behind again.

In March, a statewide sexual assault kit working group, who applied for this grant, began working on solutions to that problem.

“The goal is that we’ll have policies in place as a state that will make sure that kits are tested always going forward,” Laxalt said.

The newly formed group already made a huge dent in the problem by securing the grant, but future processing is still being worked out.

Meanwhile police are looking forward to closing cold cases, dating back decades.

“The processing and the analysis of DNA would take several weeks before, now it takes just a few hours,” said Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

And the final hope is that victims are more relieved than uneasy about digging up deep wounds.

“We don’t know if victims chose to tell their future spouse that this happened to them, we don’t know if their children know about it,” Dreitzer said.

State leaders realize no single rape kit will provide answers, but they hope to identify repeat offenders and help some victims find closure while protecting the community from more sex crimes.
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.