Representatives from the Wayne County Prosecutorâ€™s Office (WCPO) and Michigan State Police discovered 11,304 untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) dating back to the 1980s during a tour of a Detroit Police Department storage unit located at 5140 Riopelle Street in Detroit.
SAKs, performed in the aftermath of a sexual assault, contain and preserve evidence from a four- to six hour examination of the survivor. If a survivor chooses to report her rape to the police, the evidence in the rape kit can be a very powerful tool to bring a perpetrator to justice. The timely analysis of rape kit evidence is a core public safety issue.
In collaboration with the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy sought and received funding from the Office on Violence Against Women to test a random sample of 400 kits (â€œProject 400â€) to give a statistical snapshot of the rape kit problem in Detroit.
Based on the results of Project 400, the WCPO was one of only two jurisdictions in the country to receive a prestigious 30-month award in the amount of $1.5 million from the National Institute of Justice to better determine the full scope of the unsubmitted SAKs problem, and to understand the resources required to correct the problem. Funding received allowed the testing of an additional 1,600 kits. Titled, â€œNational Institute of Justice Sexual Assault Kit Action Research Project,â€ the project commenced in April 2011 and ran through October 2013.
From that initial 2,000-kit sample, there were 670 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the national DNA database, including hits linking to crimes committed in 26 other states and the District of Columbia. The Wayne County Prosecutorâ€™s Office identified 188 serial rapists, and obtained 15 convictions. A sample of resulting convictions and sentences tell the story of gruesome reality:
Encouraged by results of the preliminary 2,000-kit sample, private donors contributed $150,000 to the initiative.
It is important to note that this is not an issue exclusive to Detroit or Wayne County, but rather a problem that unfortunately is occurring across the nation, with more than 400,000 untested kits identified to date nationwide. Memphis â€“ 12,000+ untested kits, undertaking substantial efforts to reduce backlog; Cleveland â€“ nearly 4,000 before undertaking significant efforts to reduce their backlogs; Tulsa â€“ 3,700+; Las Vegas â€“ 4,000+; Milwaukee â€“ 2,655; Seattle â€“ 1,276; Nashville â€“ 200, counting in progress; Phoenix â€“ 2,996, backlog status unknown; San Francisco â€“ 753 kits, counting complete and testing in progress; Denver â€“ 998, testing in progress; Toledo â€“ 2,300, testing in progress; Dallas â€“ 4,144, testing in progress; San Antonio â€“ 1,499, testing in progress; Salt Lake City â€“ 788, testing in progress.
The Michigan State legislature sets aside $4 million to test all of Detroitâ€™s remaining kits. Currently, $3 million dollars has been allocated over the next three years by the Office of the Michigan Attorney General for prosecution. The WCPO is working on the Memorandum of Understanding with the Attorney Generalâ€™s Office regarding this allocation.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appointed the Detroit Crime Commission to serve as the fiduciary for all donations received in the Enough SAID effort.
Press conference held by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, joined by Mariska Hargitay, actress, advocate and founder of Joyful Heart Foundation, to announce Michigan Sexual Assault Kit legislation and progress on rape kit initiative.
Following discussions with Prosecutor Worthy, representatives of the region's private foundation community ask Michigan Women's Foundation to consider assuming leadership of a campaign to advocate for public support and raise private dollars to test all remaining kits and fund resulting investigations and prosecutions in a public/private partnership with the Wayne County Prosecutors Office and Detroit Crime Commission. On June 17th, the MWF board of trustees voted unanimously to take on this challenge, ensuring that crimes against women and girls will no longer be ignored.
The Detroit Crime Commission negotiated the per kit testing rate to $490 (from $1,500).
Governor Snyder signed HB 5445 The Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, enacting legislation that mandates faster and more organized sexual assault kit testing, to ensure this type of backlog never happens again. This Act will be a collaborative process between prosecution, law enforcement, health care and victimsâ€™ organizations.
Through the influence and support of Rock Financial, UPS stepped forward and offered to develop a pilot project for Detroit to create a logistical chain of custody that will track SAKs through evidence gathering, testing, investigation and prosecution.
Launch of Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit), an independent collaboration for justice between Michigan Womenâ€™s Foundation, the Wayne County Prosecutorâ€™s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission.
The Enough SAID fundraising page at www.miwf.org/enoughsaid and a microsite at EnoughSaidDetroit.org go live to accept donations and to encourage individuals, businesses and organizations to play an active role by raising funds for this critical effort.
ABOUT ENOUGH SAID
The goal of the collaboration is to advocate for additional public monies and raise private sector funding â€“ from major corporations, local businesses, families and individuals alike â€“ to finish testing the remaining kits, investigate the resulting cases and prosecute the rapists. This partnership, along with an impressive group of initial funders, represents one of the nationâ€™s first efforts to right this wrong.
Through the Enough SAID project, testing these kits will: identify unknown assailants, confirm the current location of known suspects, connect suspects to other crimes and exonerate the innocent. In short, testing kits is the first step in guaranteeing justice.
A group of private foundations is financing the infrastructure for the fundraising effort, ensuring that 100 percent of all donations go directly to the cause. To date, individuals and business donors from 45 states and eight countries have contributed close to $750,000
Initial support has come from the Joyful Heart Foundation, MGM Grand Detroit Casino, MotorCity Casino, the National Institute of Justice, the Nicholson Family, Office on Violence Against Women, Quicken Loans, Skillman Foundation, the State of Michigan, Gretchen Valade, the U.S. Department of Justice and nearly one thousand individuals.
THE ENOUGH SAID COLLABORATION IS COMPRISED OF:
Michigan Womenâ€™s Foundation:
The MWF has been working to achieve social and economic equity for women and girls in Michigan for 28 years. Through philanthropy and high impact initiatives, their goal is to ensure a brighter future for women throughout the state.
Contact: Peg Tallet, Chief Community Engagement Officer, Michigan Womenâ€™s Foundation
O: 313.962.1920 x202
Wayne County Prosecutorâ€™s Office:
The WCPO, headed by Prosecutor Kym Worthy, has been a prominent voice for this effort, reminding public and private sectors of the importance of prosecuting these crimes, as well as the necessity of legislative action to ensure such neglect will never occur again.
Contact Maria Miller, Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
Director of Communications
Detroit Crime Commission:
The Detroit Crime Commission is led by highly-trained former FBI, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police Department directors and officers. Its mission is to lessen the burdens of government and the citizens of southeast Michigan by facilitating the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime.
Contact Andy Arena, Executive Director, Detroit Crime Commission