In a November editorial, we saluted Attorney General Mark Herring for his proactive measures to test thousands of physical evidence recovery kits that had been collected from victims in old sexual assault investigations but never tested. Many of the rape kits, as they also are called, had been languishing in storage for years.
It was heartening to learn on Wednesday that, according to Herring’s office, more than 2,660 of the kits had undergone testing. The report from the attorney general’s office that the backlog had been eliminated was good news indeed.
The five-year, $3.4 million effort was completed in conjunction with the Department of Forensic Science and local law enforcement agencies. The accomplishment puts Virginia among only seven states that have achieved such a milestone. The 851 DNA profiles that were entered into a national DNA database so far have resulted in 354 “hits” that hopefully will help local police agencies track down the perpetrators.
Virginia’s backlog largely was due to the fact that most of the kits never were submitted for testing. On Wednesday, Herring acknowledged that “too often, cases were not given the seriousness that they deserved. Some of them were swept up under the rug, and those days are over.”
We are hopeful that the swift efforts to test every evidence kit and prevent another backlog will continue — and transform the way Virginia responds to sexual violence. No victim of such a horrendous crime should have to live with the knowledge that evidence capable of confirming the perpetrator has gone untested.
— Robin Beres