Houston Finds 850 DNA Matches in a Backlog of 30 Years of Untested Rape Kits
This isn’t just a Texas problem. Almighty big backlogs have been discovered in multiple cities. It wasn’t until a very uncomfortable spotlight was placed on the problem that it was realized that there was a problem in the first place:
The history of crime solving can be divided into two periods: Before DNA and After DNA. The introduction of forensic evidence in the mid-1980s completely changed the way we solve crimes. Matching crime scene evidence with potential perpetrators at a 99 percent success rate, DNA testing is regularly used to convict murderers and get the wrongly accused out from behind bars.
And perhaps no crime is better suited to DNA testing than sexual assault, as perpetrators leave behind a host of biological material—skin, hair, bodily fluids—on victims’ bodies. Yet while forensic examinations, during which evidence is collected using a sexual assault evidence collection kit—or rape kit—are available to all rape survivors in the U.S. free of charge, only 3 percent of rapists will ever serve a day in prison.
Now comes today’s news. Houston has finally cleared its back log, which dated back 30 years and they found 850 DNA matches.
On Monday, Houston officials announced that they had finally completed analyzing back-logged DNA evidence in 850 of 6,600 sexual assault cases. The District Attorney’s Office filed 29 charges based on the findings, resulting in six convictions so far, and suggested it has years’ worth of leads on other cases.
Great. Except in the mean time, serial rapists were at large, doing their, thing. What’s worse, rape and sexual assault has been underreported for years. In fact, it’s been estimated that the FBI missed up to 1 million rapes. Let me repeat that number again. 1 million rapes have never been counted. It was only after a thorough analysis of federal data by Corey Rayburn Yung, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, that anyone realized something was very wrong.
Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.
That’s more than 1 million rapes.
Time after time, rape apologists have gone on about women and girls making false rape claims, just to get their own back on a “bad date”. It’s a claim that rings incredibly hollow in the face of today’s news. It’s hard to judge which is worse. That serial rapists have gone along unhindered and unpunished, all this time, for lack of interest and political will, not to say the lack of funds. Or that their victims have had to suffer even more trauma at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them. After all, it wasn’t until 2015, this very year that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act makes it clear that rape victims shouldn’t have to pay for their own rape kits.