Illinois, USA: Human Rights Watch Finds Majority of Rape Kits Never Tested
Monday, July 19, 2010 1:25 PM

In July 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report revealing that 80 percent of rape kits collected from victims since 1995 were not tested to obtain DNA results and other information. The report suggests that the overburdened Illinois criminal justice system provides an inadequate response to sexual assault crimes – arrests are made in only 11 percent of sexual assault cases. According to Human Rights Watch, the failure to test rape kits is a result of insufficient hospital staff, arbitrary decision-making by police and prosecutors as to whether or not to proceed with a case, and an overwhelmed state crime laboratory.  The author of the report, Sarah Tofte, stated that "Illinois's failure to test DNA evidence is not only an insult to rape victims - it puts all women at risk by leaving rapists who could be identified at large, some of whom may attack again." The testing of rape kits can identify the perpetrator, confirm the victim’s account of the incident, and connect separate incidents to the same assailant. In other states, testing rape kits has proven to lead to a higher arrest rate in crimes of sexual assault.


In response to the problem, the state of Illinois signed the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act into effect on July 6, 2010. The first of its kind in the nation, the law requires that every rape kit that is booked into evidence by police is sent to the crime lab for testing within 10 days of being collected.  However, the new law contains a provision that the timeframe requirement is dependent on “sufficient staffing and resources.” Human Rights Watch challenges the state of Illinois to provide the necessary resources and oversight to make sure the law takes effect.


From: “US: Most Rape Kits Never Tested in Illinois – New Law Promises to Reduced sexual Assault backlog, but Funding Remains Major Concern,” Human Rights Watch, 7 July 2010.