– North Carolina is expected to know soon how many rape kits are sitting on shelves untested across the state.
Results from a statewide audit are expected in March, but at last estimate there are at least 1,000 untested kits.
In recent years, Charlotte and Fayetteville made progress in testing their kits, after receiving money from the U.S. Department of Justice and Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Ilse Knecht, policy and advocacy director for the Joyful Heart Foundation, says when the state knows just how much work there is left to be done, it will be a step forward.
“That’s a step forward,” she states. “It’s definitely progress when you do an audit. That’s the first step to reform.
“You have to find out what the problem is before you can address it really, but there is a lot of work to be done in North Carolina.”
Currently, there is no law in North Carolina requiring the state to keep survivors of sexual assault informed on the status of their rape kits.
This month, the Joyful Heart Foundation – dedicated to decreasing the number of rape kits left untested nationwide – released a public service announcement that encourages states such as North Carolina to make further progress in testing.
The PSA released by Joyful Heart is titled “Shelved” and features a rape survivor being transported to a tall shelf in a warehouse, filled with hundreds of other survivors waiting on their kits to be tested.
“The man that raped me was white, about 5’8″, probably about 170 pounds, crooked nose, sandy blond hair,” the survivor relates. “All of those details, plus the DNA, is enough evidence for you to catch him, right? Right?”
Late last year, Fayetteville arrested more than 20 people after police began processing old rape kits, and law enforcement says they have more work to do.
Knecht says while resolution of rape cases is a need for survivors of assault – processing them is also resulting in the solving of hundreds of other crimes, and the prevention of untold more.
“They commit all kinds of crimes,” she points out. “When you look at the rap sheets, it’s domestic violence, it’s homicide, it’s robbery, burglary, assault.
“These guys are one-man wrecking crews on society. The public should be very concerned that these aren’t being tested because it’s such a great tool to take really dangerous people off the street.”
Actress Mariska Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation after playing a detective on the TV series “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
She says the content of the scripts and letters she received from fans of the show prompted her to take action.