Washington state auditor reports progress made on backlog of sexual assault kits

The Washington state audit agency has released a new report showing that the number of sexual assault kits being placed on untested shelves has halved since 2018.

OLYMPIA, Wash – The Washington State Auditor has released a new report showing progress is being made on the number of sexual assault kits that are being placed on untested shelves.

In 2018, there were more than 9,000 untested kits. One is from 1982, and now the number has been halved.

Leah Griffin is a sexual assault survivor, and in 2014 she was faced with a broken system.

“One hospital turned me down because they didn’t even provide sexual assault kits, the police refused to investigate, prosecutors blamed and threatened me,” Griffin said.

She then fought to make a difference and, with the help of lawmakers, passed key pieces of legislation including a measure to eliminate backlogs and a tracking system. .

“I’m just someone who’s been through trauma and I know I have to do something and do my best over the past eight years to make a significant difference and I’m not alone. You can do it,” said Griffin.

In a new report, the Washington State Audit Office shows progress has been made, but thousands of kits remain untested. The state is blaming the pandemic’s slowdown.

In January, state auditors found there were more than 6,000 kits left for testing.

KING 5 checked with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and they said there are 4,543 new and old kits pending, with 60% of those historic kits collected by July 24. 2015.

“It’s amazing to know that people who have come in and done rape kits that the evidence they’ve gathered in their bodies from the crime scene that we’re actually examining it,” Griffin said. Griffin said.

The auditor’s report indicates that the WSP took the right steps. They are responsible for testing kits and have 65 positions dedicated to that.

As of May 2022, any new kits introduced must be tested within 45 days. WSP says it received more than 500 kits from new cases and 99.4% of them were tested within 45 days, with testing completed on average within 25 days of receipt. .

The forensic evidence is then entered into the database.

“We’re looking for examples of mass predators out there that we wouldn’t have caught without this process,” said Griffin.

Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center said the progress being made is encouraging, but it is just the beginning for victims in a long process.

Stone is concerned about the backlog of cases being investigated by the police and the prosecutor’s office.

“When they do a report and nothing happens like it’s so easy, why should I bother? Does anyone believe me? Is that my fault? ‘ said Stone.

Stone points to nationwide data showing that out of 1,000 sexual assaults, 975 perpetrators were released.

Stone said lengthy delays are one of the hurdles victims face when seeking accountability in the legal system.

“We have to act with some sense of urgency here. We have to make this a higher priority. We have to be able to make some changes, if we want people who have been victims of sexual assault to speak up,” said Stone.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office said the incident occurred due to the near closure during the pandemic and said it shares the same concerns as KCSARC and would get cases through the court system faster if they could.

“We want the victims to be heard, we want those who committed these terrible crimes to be held accountable. We need to be careful with these cases so they don’t get dismissed or overturned on appeal,” Casey McNerthney told the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

McNerthney said in all the cases currently backlog, charges have been filed.

As for the untested kits, WSP said it anticipates the majority of historical pending cases will be tested by spring 2023.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/progress-made-backlog-sexual-assault-kits/281-f672b77a-c265-4d14-8661-bb490218188f Washington state auditor reports progress made on backlog of sexual assault kits

Edmund DeMarche

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