Virginia eliminates backlog of over 2,600 rape kits

Virginia eliminates backlog of over 2,600 rape kits
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The state of Virginia has eliminated its backlog of more than 2,600 untested rape kits, the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced Wednesday.  

Herring said in a Wednesday statement that the state’s $3.4 million project to eliminate the backlog of 2,665 untested kits has been completed. The milestone makes Virginia the seventh state to completely clear its rape kit backlog.

As a result of the project, 851 DNA profiles were added to CODIS, the national Combined DNA Index System, according to the Wednesday statement. Officials also sent 351 “hits” to law enforcement agencies for investigation.

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“Virginia’s backlog of untested rape kits has been completely eliminated, and it is never coming back,” Herring said. “Eliminating this backlog has been a long time coming, and it has taken a lot of work, but it means a wrong has been righted, that justice is closer for more survivors, and that Virginia is a safer place. 

“These kits represented a survivor’s trauma, and they could have held key evidence in bringing a perpetrator to justice, but they had been pushed to the side and never dealt with," he continued. "And for many survivors, the fact that their kit was never tested denied them a sense of security and justice or even closure that is critical for healing from such a traumatic experience."

Some of the kits had gone untested for decades. 

Herring said in the Wednesday statement that a 2016 Virginia law requiring police to submit their kits to the state’s crime lab within 60 days should mean “that once the backlog of untested kits is eliminated, it should never return." 

However, Department of Forensic Science Director Linda Jackson said during a Wednesday press conference that the volume of testing done for multiple crimes means the state lab is able to test within 129 days, The Washington Post reported.

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Jackson said in the Wednesday statement that scientists have worked for nearly five years to review results of the kits from private laboratories.

“Virginia has made significant progress in the past thirty years, but justice for survivors of sexual assault can still be elusive," Kristi VanAudenhove, executive director of the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said in the Wednesday statement. "Addressing Virginia’s sexual assault kit backlog has been a progressive step forward for survivors in the Commonwealth."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE late last year signed a bill to help eliminate the number of rape kits stalled in a backlog across the country. The legislation provides funding through the Department of Justice to help local governments complete untested kits.