New campaign aims to expedite rape kit processing

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There is a call to change the way rape kits are handled in Illinois and around the country. (WLS)

There is a call to change the way rape kits are handled in Illinois and around the country.

There are an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits in the U.S. and an advocacy group has an idea to cut down on the backlog. It's an idea that many welcome.

Rape survivor Michelle Kuiper wants justice for other victims of sexual assaults whose attackers remain free because of the rape kit backlog.

"We can show how good it is to come forward," Kuiper said.

The man who attacked her in 1994 was identified in 2011, but many other attackers aren't. That's the reason for the call to action by Test400k.

"A woman is raped every two minutes in the United States, and rape is the most underreported crime. Less than 63 percent of rapes are never reported," said Julie Smolyansky, co-founder of Test400k.

Smolyansky is a rape survivor herself and has produced a documentary on the subject. The group's new campaign is called Just Track It; the idea is to use tracking codes for packages sent around the world to help expedite processing. It's estimated that some 400,000 untested rape kits are collecting dust across the country and Illinois has at least 2,000 unprocessed kits.

"I feel like we are creating victims by not investigating these cases and there's a cost to society," Smolyansky said.

Monday afternoon, the Just Track It campaign sent all of the country's governors an unused rape kit, asking them to endorse rape kit reforms calling for every kit to be tested and processed within 15 to 30 days and to implement a victim notification and rape kit tracking system.

Proponents say the system could cost $300,000 to start. Washington State rep. Tina Orwall, who sponsored the nation's first law a statewide rape kit tracking system, says staffing has cost her state millions.

"We really underfunded our state labs and that was one of the reasons that these kits were remaining untested," Orwall said.

Rape kits are something Kuiper says are just too important to ignore.

"If it's not saving you, maybe-that's the way I always thought - well, but it's saving people," she said.

The organization is hopeful for support but with many states facing ongoing budget issues, it's unclear if or when states will get on board.

Untested rape kits date all the way back to 1979. There is a 10-year statute of limitations on tested kits.

Related Topics:
rapetestssex assaultBruce RaunerChicago - DowntownSpringfield
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