I Am Evidence: Focusing on Detroit’s Untested Rape Kits

By Kanika Ferency posted 08-28-2017 08:54


In 2009, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office located more than 11,000 untested rape kits in a police warehouse in Detroit. One of the biggest problems Kym Worthy, the Wayne County Prosecutor, faced was a lack of funding. Even after receiving federal and state grants of over $5 million, Worthy still felt that the investigation and processing of all the untested rape kits would cost an additional $10 million. Regardless of money constraints, the prosecutor’s office has been working at double speed on these untested kits.

As of May 1, 2017, there have been over 92 convictions from evidence tied to the first batch of kits. The kits are being tested in batches due to time and money restrictions. Over 1,640 kits have been investigated and closed in the first batch, and there are currently over 330 open investigations. This still leaves roughly 950 cases in the first batch awaiting investigation.

This issue of untested rape kits is not unique to Detroit. Untested kits are being found all over the country. Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay follows the story in an upcoming documentary titled I Am Evidence.  It will expose the high numbers of untested kits around the country, the work done by prosecutors on rape kits, and the impact this has had on victims of sexual assault. The HBO documentary will feature Worthy’s and other U.S. prosecutors’ efforts, as well as stories from survivors of sexual assault.




09-25-2017 14:01

Ruthmarie, thank you for your comment. You raised some important questions.

09-18-2017 21:07

This information is truly disturbing. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I find the backlog of 11,000 untested rape kits in Wayne County alone to be shocking. For 5 million dollars 1,640 tests have been tested and closed, another 330 cases are still open, and another 950 are awaiting investigation in the first batch. This means that if 2,840 tests can be processed for 5 million dollars, the tests run approximately $1,760 each. This seems rather high for DNA testing, online research gives a range of $400-$1,500 for rape kit analysis.  I am wondering why Detroit would be above the higher end of this spectrum and still wants $10,000,000 more. Since understaffing and underfunding seems to be an issue perhaps Wayne County could put this out for competitive bids among the various hospitals and private CLIA licensed laboratories in the state, or elsewhere. It's likely they would be happy to be awarded the work and could eliminate the backlog in short order.