Activists and survivors call on governors to reduce rape kit backlog

CHICAGO -- A woman is raped every two minutes in the United States. Yet it's estimated there are 2,000 untested rape kits in Illinois and 400,000 in the U.S. Only three out of 100 rapists ever spend time in jail.

In two U.S. states tracking a rape kit is as easy as tracking a post office delivery, but a national advocacy group wants it to be that simple for victims across the country.

Test400k is shipping real rape kits to governors across the U.S. to bring awareness to the backlog that needs to be tested and sits on shelves for months, years, even decades. Organizers of the ”Just Track it Campaign" hope tracking the kits will help get them done faster.

“The number one job of a government is to protect its communities and it's citizens. Violence against women is epidemic in our world and in our country,” said Test400k’s co-founder, Julie Smolyansky said.

Michelle Kuiper got her justice two decades after being raped. Although the rape kit was tested within three years, it "technically" sat as evidence for nearly two decades until it matched DNA to the rapist in 2011. Her attacker was just sentenced to 33 years. Until then, fear paralyzed her.

“Yesterday I actually took a bike ride for the first time by myself,” she said.

In Chicago it takes 12 to 24 months to get a kit tested. In that time, the victim is going through incredible emotional stress and the perpetrator could be committing more rapes.

Washington was the first to have mandatory tracking and notification of rape kits. State Representative Tina Orwall said she became aware that there were more than 6,000 untested kits in the state when she was touring an evidence room.

“I was seeing all these white boxes stacked to the ceiling,” Rep. Orwall said. “Every one of those kits represents someone's life that's been shattered.”

By adding a tracking bar code to rape kits, survivors can track the kit to see what part of the process it’s in. They can check to see if it’s left the hospital, made it to the crime lab, or been completed.

In 2013, 176 rape kits were found gathering dust in southwest suburban Robbins. They dated back to 1986 and were never investigated by the Robbins police department. Cook County Sheriff's detectives are now trying to solve the cases.

In Chicago it can take up to two years for a rape kit to be tested. In Detroit, a backlog of 11,000 rape cases revealed 652 serial rapists in 40 states. Now Michigan is using this tracking system.

If you'd like to track your governor's rape kit, log onto Test400k.org.