State rape kit backlog deters some victims from reporting

State rape kit backlog deters some victims from reporting. (WNCT)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – North Carolina is experiencing a rape kit backlog, leading to slower response times across the state. It is one of the reasons some areas in the state just received federal funds from the Attorney General to help test some of the kits.

The long wait time for a rape kit to process is enough to deter some victims of rape from reporting the crime in the first place. One woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said despite being raped 20 years ago, she still hasn’t reported the crime. She said one of her friends was also raped, and the rape kit she had done wasn’t enough to prosecute the man she said did it.

“If she had to go through this, trying to wait for him to get prosecuted and he’s still free, then there’s no need for me to do it,” she said.

She said she was raped following a barbecue in Kinston more than 20 years ago.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he wanted to clear up the backlog departments across the state were experiencing by adding more DNA experts in the State Crime Lab. Before 2004, many departments were keeping rape kits on their shelves because the state lab didn’t have resources to get through them all.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office said once a rape kit is administered, they can keep it on their shelves for up to 60 days while other evidence is collected. Once they submit the kit to the state crime lab, they said it usually takes about 18 months to get back the results.

Detective Wallace Moore said it is an imperfect system.

“There may be a case that was actually behind the one that I sent in, but for whatever reason, they need that for trail sooner,” Moore said.

While kits wait to be tested, Moore said they are kept in climate controlled areas and under supervision.

“Every time it changes hands, it is documented, and it is placed in a secure facility,” he said.

Moore said they investigate about 12 rapes cases in Pitt County each year.

The Greenville Police investigated 20 rape cases in 2013, and 14 in 2014. Greenville Police sometimes send rape kits to the local DNA lab, which produces results back within a few weeks or months, rather than more than a year. However, that can cost the department several thousand dollars.

In 2013-2014, the state crime lab completed 13,010 cases in their DNA database. To reduce the wait time for rape kits, the Attorney General’s office said they broke ground this month on a larger Western Regional Crime lab, which will serve the western third of the state.

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