Advocates Say Backlog of Rape Kits Exists Nationwide

Sep 21, 2011

Advocates for sexual assault victims contend there's a backlog of untested rape kits nationwide. 

Just last week, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy authorized more than $600,000 to correct problems at the state crime lab including a backlog of at least 200 rape kits. A Long Island woman who is a rape survivor has created a group to study why these kits sit on shelves untested. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, evidence from Natasha Alexanko's case was ignored for almost a decade.  In 1993, Natasha Alexanko was raped when she was a college student in New York City. Even today, she remembers how hospital staff painstakingly collected evidence to help police find her attacker. " It's a process that takes hours. I was really shocked to hear that nothing was done with my kit. It sat in storage for nine and a half years." One day in 2003, prosecutors called telling her the kit had finally been processed and they needed her to testify at a grand jury hearing before a ten year statute of limitations on sexual assaults expired. Alexenko agreed and the DNA evidence was indicted meaning that if her attacker was found even 50 years later he could be charged with the crime. He was found and sent to prison in 2007. Now Alexenko wants to make sure other victims see justice. Thats why her group, Natasha's Justice Project is studying the backlog problem with Stony Brook University. "Really they're the experts. It's important to find these statistics and publish these numbers. I believe individuals who hear about this are outraged, they're shocked because each kit represents a human being, each kit is a victim who's body was essentially a crime scene." Alexenko says the research is vital because there are municipalities out there that don't have a backlog of untested rape kits. She believes they can be a model for the rest of the country.  for wnpr I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil Learn more about Natasha's story here.