When a sexual assault victim goes to the hospital, they have the option of undergoing an exam in which medical staff collect any evidence of the assault. Then, this evidence is placed in a rape kit. These kits help law enforcement apprehend, arrest and prosecute the perpetrator. One of the most common uses of rape kits is to test a suspect’s DNA against the DNA evidence from the kit.
But many states, including Indiana, have a problem when it comes to testing rape kits. Testing the evidence can be time-consuming and expensive; sometimes, the kits do not contain evidence that is useful in solving the crime. As a result, the state of Indiana has a backlog of 2,560 rape kits that have not yet been tested.
Reducing the backlog
After a state audit in 2017 revealed the shocking number of untested rape kits throughout the state, two counties have taken it upon themselves to do their part in reducing the number. Lake and Porter counties have announced plans to test all non-anonymous rape kits that were performed from Jan. 1, 2008 to the present. Lake County currently has 239 kits; Porter County has 16.
The plans are not without controversy. Every anonymous kit that was performed after Jan. 2008 will be destroyed, as will every kit, anonymous or non-anonymous, that was performed before 2008. Officials have not yet explained why the kits will be destroyed.
Indiana, sexual assault and legal consequences
Testing the backlogged rape kits is sure to have significant legal consequences for both survivors and defendants. Survivors are encouraged to contact law enforcement to determine the status of their case. Any Hoosier who has been accused of sexual assault or is facing sexual assault charges should consider their legal options. As rape kits are tested in the upcoming months, there are sure to be important developments on many sexual assault cases in Indiana.