Thousands of rape victims in Kentucky are waiting for answers

Exactly 3,090 victims of sexual violence are waiting for answers on their rape kits in Kentucky. State auditor Adam Edelen released a report Monday describing a lack of consistent policies for testing and saying that staff shortages are adding to the backlog.

The report also shows 48 percent of Kentucky women have experienced sexual violence, 98 percent of rapists will never serve a day in prison, and that rape costs add up to $127 billion for society every year.

Legal advocate Grace Stewart at the Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Advocacy Child Center hopes this report will raise awareness to the back-log issue.

“For them to go through that and then not have the kit tested is almost kind of like a re-victimization,”  Stewart said.

Edelen says sometimes rape kits aren’t submitted because of lack of policies and training for handling rape kits.

“That hampers a lot of victims from reporting, because they think, ‘My kit’s not going to be tested. Why do I want to go through that?’.” Stewart said.

Locally, to help victims’ tests be the most accurate and efficient, PASAC has developed a flow chart in the last month to help medical examiners take better care of the victims.

“How to call law enforcement, when you call social services, how you do the kit,” Stewart said.

Kits are not tested at law enforcement facilities. They’re sent off to regional labs to be tested. The report says average turnaround at labs for the kits is eight months

Edelen says a lack of resources at labs and trouble recruiting and retraining lab analysts adds to it. He suggests establishing policies for law enforcement, submitting all tests, as well as more resources for labs and training to handle kits. He also suggested the General Assembly pass a law requiring kits be submitted within 10 days after the kit is first booked into evidence.

“Whatever the results are, there is some closure that their kits are looked at,” Stewart said.

This report comes less than two weeks after Kentucky state police laboratory received a $1.9 million grant from the New York district attorney to help with the back-log.

PASAC has a sexual assault response team that meets monthly to go over reported cases. The group consists of law enforcement, advocates, and nurses talking about how they can help make things better talk about these specific cases as well as the statewide issues.

As far as taking the tests, Stewart says there’s always need for more sexual assault nurse examiners. Next week, there will be a SANE certification training at Baptist Health.

Below is a list of  some local agencies in our area with rape kits currently in their evidence room:

Calloway County Sheriff’s Office: 6

Benton Police Department: 11

Hopkinsville Police Department: 27

Marshall County Sheriff’s Office: 10

McCracken County Sheriff’s Office: 36

Murray Police Department: 32

Paducah Police Department: 21

Union County Sheriff’s Office: 2 

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