Campaign pushes to resolve rape kit backlog of 400K

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Police storage facilities across the country may have untested rape kits sitting, some for years. (WLS)

Police storage facilities across the country may have untested rape kits sitting, some for years.

These kits have stalled court and police cases from moving forward.

A new campaign pushes to resolve the backlog.

A piece of artwork is made up of 400,000 dots - each representing a victim of sexual assault and a person whose rape kit has gone untested for years in the United States. The artwork was done by artist Drue Kataoka.

"Illinois used to be the vanguard in terms of rape kit testing, and I think with all the budget problems they're just way, way behind," said Kristie Paskvan, of Chicago Says No More.

Chicago Says No More is a group determined to raise awareness and connect people and organizations to push for faster testing models.

A close friend of Kristen Fields, with Test 400K, was sexually assaulted last year in Logan Square. A year later, her rape kit has yet to be tested.

"She literally will not talk about it anymore. She has heard of other people this has happened to at the same establishment. She was followed home and assaulted. And she's losing faith in our system," said Fields.

About 100 people listened inside the James Tyree Auditorium on North Clark Tuesday morning to hear how the backlog could be cleared at places, such as the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center.

"A number of other states are working and figuring it out - Detroit, Utah, California's working on it - so we can be there, too, in terms of getting these rape kits tested. And it's going to require a lot of work," said Paskvan.

The effort will also require cooperation between social service agencies, hospitals, crime labs and law enforcement. The hope is that victims won't have to wait, in some cases for years, for justice.

Success for Test400K is measured in policy changes, which includes future rape kits with a scan feature so they can be tracked through the testing process, and passage of an Illinois reporting and deadline law in 49 other states, which creates a defined entity to track and report progress on backlogs.

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