In 2009, over 11,000 untested rape kits were found in a police storage facility in Detroit, MI. This was alarming because thousands of victims had no closure and thousands of criminals were still roaming the streets. With the help of the state, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, organizations like End The Backlog, and the citizens of the city, almost all of the kits have been tested. As of September 2015 2,616 suspects had been identified, including 477 serial rapists, and 21 convictions have been secured.
Now that almost all of the rape kits have been tested, and many are under investigation, we now have to move forward making sure that the city's rape victims are never stashed away in a closet forgotten. Rape and sexual assault are some of the most heinous and life destroying crimes. The city of Detroit failed every single victim who spoke their truth and asked for help. For years rapists not only roamed the city, but other states because these rape kits went untested. Suspects have been linked to 35 other states and the District of Columbia.
A woman I know just recently took the stand after her rape kit from 2003 was tested. She said she knew her rapist, he lived in her neighborhood, and no matter how many times she called and asked about her case so he could be locked away it never happened. She said by 2005 she gave up hope and moved from her home. When she got the phone call last November that they had finally tested her rape kit and found the suspect she couldn't even believe it. She thought the city's justice department had forgotten about her.
Rape victims already feel so alone. How could we alienate so many by not doing our due diligence and abiding by the laws set out before us? Prosecutor Kym Worthy pledged to get all the kits tested, and has also said that there will never be a huge failure like this again, but what can we do in order to ensure no atrocity like this ever happens again?
First we must change the dialouge around rape "were you raped or were you too drunk to remember". "you shouldn't have been so flirtatious", "you know better than to dress like that". Victim blaming is never okay, and if we think that victims are asking for it then there is no urgency to get people we don't even see as victims justice.
The city of Detroit is unfortunately known for it's corruption and mistakes. Those rape kits were put in storage which is a purposeful act. We must hold the city's leaders, police department, and justice system as a whole more accountable. Our citizens must speak out more, share their stories, protest, petition, and recall in order to get results.
We need to create safe havens in our community. Get rid of abandon buildings that are often used to sexually assault people in, create support groups for victims, offer mental health services, and teach people the meaning of consent. Doing these things will enable the people to be in charge of what is going on in their community, help with prevention, and aid those who do become victim.
You cannot slap a band aid on any issue in the city of Detroit, and this one is no different, but it is imperative that in 20 years no one opens a storage facility door and finds thousands of untested rape kits again. Whatever it takes to ensure this travesty never happens again we must do. Everyone deserves justice.