”I was in shock. I was outraged and I just assumed kits were being tested,” said actress Mariska Hargitay about the thousands of rape kits in Detroit and across the country that have been left sitting in storage without being processed, allowing rapists to remain free to attack again. And they often do.
Hargitay joined Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to announce legislation that will soon be introduced to state lawmakers that is aimed at setting guidelines and deadlines for rape kits tests to be processed.
"Testing rape kits is vital for keeping rapists off the street," said Hargitay during Monday’s press conference.
Over 11,000 sexual assault kits, some dating back to the 1980’s, were found abandoned in a Detroit Police storage facility back in 2009.
Not long after the rape kits were discovered, Worthy pushed to start the processing with Michigan State Police.
So far, 1,600 rape kits have been processed, resulting in the identification of about 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists, according to Worthy.
Worthy told reporters that perpetrators have moved on from Michigan to commit similar crimes in 23 other states.
"It was mind blowing to me," said Hargitay that so many rape kits have gone unprocessed. "My head exploded.. We have the means to do it and DNA equals justice."
Hargitay, best known for her role as Sergeant Olivia Benson on the television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has also become an advocate for real life victims of sex crimes. She founded the Joyful Heart Foundation that works to “heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.”
Nationally, an estimated 400,000 rape kits have gone unprocessed, allowing rapists to remain free and their victims to wonder if they will ever see justice.
"These rape kits in Michigan are over 25 years old," said Worthy. "Want to make sure we deal with the victims mercifully, honestly and genuinely."
Fourteen prosecutions have resulted from what is being called the “Detroit Rape Kit Project”, including the case of DeShawn Starks, 32.
11,000 abandoned rape kits dating back to the 1980’s. 100 serial rapists identified in 1,600 finally tested. They moved on to commit similar crimes in 23 other states. An estimated 400,000 rape kits remain untested nationally.
Meanwhile half of the prison population in America is there for non-violent, drug-related offenses.
Kym Worthy pushed for this so hard.
The Detroit Crime Commission is supporting an initiative spearheaded by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to test thousands of rape kits that were never submitted for testing. During a tour of a Detroit Police Department Property storage facility, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office discovered more than 11,000 rape kits dating back nearly twenty-five years. Each of those kits represents a woman, man or child who suffered a violent assault and underwent a lengthy and physically invasive evidentiary collection procedure in an effort to apprehend his or her assailant. Each rape kit has the potential to solve multiple crimes. If tested, a rape kit can provide valuable investigative leads that may identify unknown rapists and connect evidence to serial rapists. On average, it costs between $1,200 to $1,500 to test a kit. However, testing kits is not enough. To successfully put rapists behind bars, we must investigate the leads that testing provides and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy is leading the effort to find the funding to resolve the rape kit crisis in Detroit. An estimated $15 million is needed to test the kits and investigate and prosecute the cases. The challenge is finding the funds and she says, “It’s a massive undertaking.”
The Detroit Crime Commission has partnered with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for the SAF-D Initiative and is acting as the pass-through agency for donations. The DCC is taking no administrative costs for its participation in the SAF-D Initiative.
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The Detroit Crime Commission has partnered for the SAF-D Initiative with the Wayne County Prosecutors Office and the Detroit Police Department such that the DCC, using the donated funds, pays the laboratory directly as each kit is processed. This is a 100% pass through program with the DCC taking no administrative costs. 100% of your donations will be used for the program.
Please make check payable to “Detroit Crime Commission” and write “SAF-D Initiative” in the memo to donate to this initiative. Please mail to:
Detroit Crime Commission 1001 Woodward Avenue, Suite 650 Detroit, MI 48226
The Detroit Crime Commission is a tax exempt public charity as defined by Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. You will receive a receipt for income tax purposes in the mail within two weeks.