Kansas Authorities Announce Elimination of 2,200 Rape Kit Backlog

Topeka, Kansas authorities announced Thursday that they are close to completing testing on a backlog of over two thousand rape kits that had gone unprocessed for years, according to the Associated Press.

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), 2,000 of the kits have already been tested, with the remaining 235 to be tested by the end of the month. Some kits date back decades, authorities announced Tuesday.

The testing has established 373 biological profiles from the evidence produced; when they were entered into a DNA database they resulted in 243 hits, which may provide breaks in cases long unsolved. Two of the processed kits have already resulted in convictions, and one more in an acquittal at trial.

The KBI has launched a television and digital ad campaign to encourage public awareness of sexual assault and its impacts.

"The health, well-being and vitality of Kansas depends on a zero-tolerance response to sexual violence," KBI executive officer Katie Whisman, who oversaw the effort to address the backlog of untested rape kits, said during a news conference. "Together, we can overcome rape culture."

Last year, the bureau recommended to Topeka police that they send all of their backlogged kits in for testing instead of deciding on a case-by-case basis whether or not they should go in. They were tested at one of four FBI forensic labs.

Whisman told the Associated Press that some agencies are reluctant to send in their kits for fear of overwhelming state labs, or harbored questions about consent for such processes. But Whisman says all kits should be sent in regardless of fears, because they can establish important links that might solve other cases.

The KBI launched an effort in 2012 to determine how many kits were left untested, ultimately receiving a $2 million federal grant that allowed them to proceed in 2015.

When the investigation was completed in 2017 by a KBI working group, the oldest collected but untested kit was created in 1989. The group also concluded that a dearth of statewide policy and a lack of officer training in sexual assault contributed to a lack of speed in testing the kits.

"What's important is we're telling local law enforcement agencies to make sure that they don't hold back their submissions," KBI Director Kirk Thompson. "That's the policy guidance we're giving: Submit them all. We'll test them all."

Kansas has solved an over 2,000 backlog of rape kits, all of which will be processed by the end of the month. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The KBI and local authorities have worked together to solve the cases, smoothing the process, but Thompson added at a press conference that asking Kansas' legislature to set policies into state law next year so law enforcement "(doesn't) have to relearn these lessons" might be a good idea.

"For many victims and survivors to have this evidence move forward in this way is a form in and of itself," said Kathy Ray, advocacy director for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "They know that these cases are being taken seriously."