State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, first introduced a bill in 2015 to resolve the backlog of sexual assault kits. COURTESY PHOTO, Tina Orwall

All backlogged sexual assault kits cleared from shelves, sent for testing

Backlog of more than 10,000 kits effectively eliminated

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday, Oct. 26 that the last of more than 10,000 sexual assault kits have been cleared from shelves and sent to labs for testing.

This marks a major milestone for the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. Washington’s backlog of rape kits has effectively been eliminated, according to an Oct. 26 news release from the State Office of Attorney General.

Clearing the backlog and testing the kits has helped solve at least 21 sexual assault cases — a number that is not exhaustive and will grow over time, according to the news release. The testing has resulted in more than 2,100 “hits” in the national DNA database, known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). A hit occurs when a DNA sample matches an individual or another case in the database, which generally consists of offenders.

The crimes that have been resolved as a result of these hits were committed against adults and children — including a victim as young as 3 years old — and occurred all over the state between 2002 and 2015.

“Effectively ending our sexual assault kit backlog is a historic step toward justice — but our work on behalf of survivors is not done,” Ferguson said. “Through this collective effort, we ensured that survivors’ voices are heard, reformed a broken system, improved testing times, and solved crimes. This success proves that government can solve big problems when we work together. We are committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to prevent any more backlogs so we have the best chance of solving these serious crimes.”

State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, whose 33rd legislative district includes parts of Kent, first introduced a bill in 2015 to address the backlog.

“We’ve come a long way to create a system that delivers justice for survivors whose sexual assault kits sat forgotten on shelves in evidence rooms across the state,” Orwall said. “When I first started this work, I was shocked to learn that thousands of sexual assault kits remained untested. Over the course of many years and through multiple bills we have committed to testing our state’s entire backlog of sexual assault kits, leading to the arrest and prosecution of many perpetrators. Now, with a system in place for the state to test every sexual assault kit within 45 days, we are supporting and empowering victims and survivors.”

Testing these kits and adding the DNA to CODIS can help solve serious crimes and bring closure to countless victims.

As part of its SAKI project, the attorney general conducted an inventory with every law enforcement agency in the state and determined the backlogged kits exceeded 10,000. At the time, more than 6,400 kits were still sitting on shelves at law enforcement agencies across the state. Some of the untested kits dated back to the 1980s.

Today all 10,134 backlogged sexual assault kits found in the office’s inventory have been tested or submitted to a private lab for testing.

The Washington State Patrol is still reviewing approximately 1,000 tested kits, many of which will be added to CODIS. That process should be completed by the end of the year.


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