Records show majority of collected rape kits are never tested
OMAHA, Neb. (FOX42KPTM) —
It's something no one ever should go through. In march, Kris Udhus was raped.
"This person I met through a friend and he had wanted me to come over just to hang out and watch movies and what not, and then he took advantage of me, drugged me and raped me," said Udhus.
She wanted to do everything she could to make sure he was caught.
"My roommate at the time took me to the hospital the next day to get the kit done, and that took a couple hours," said Udhus, but that's when Udhus says things got even further off track.
At that moment, she had joined a group made up thousands of other Americans.
They are all waiting for police to process their rape kits.
"It's difficult because it's like my DNA sitting there and my clothes are still sitting there, so it's just that basically that memory of the event just sitting there not being taken care of."
The website End the Backlog tracks the status of rape kits across the country.
It found from 2000 to 2014, the Omaha Police Department had 1,271 rape kits in custody.
The website also notes “OPD stated that ‘no record exists’ regarding the testing status of these kits, and opd took no additional measures to attempt to provide this information.”
FOX42 News asked the department about those kits.
In an email, Capt. Michele Bang said they aren't destroyed unless “...we are directed by the courts or there are special circumstances that warrant its destruction."
Bang went on to say in the email, "By maintaining kits, it ensures the kits are available for comparison if needed for the case it was collected for or future cases that could be connected to the same suspect."
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Omaha Police did give us the numbers on rape kits filed from 2014 through 2017.
- 138 kits were submitted
- 8 were sent to the lab
- 33 were submitted
- 9 of them were sent to the lab
- 61 were submitted
- 10 were sent to the lab
January 2017 - May 2007
- 22 were submitted
- 6 were sent to the lab
In a letter to FOX 42 News, Omaha city lawyer Bernard J. in den Bosch said, “rape kits are not tested unless the police department determines it is necessary.”
Adding up the numbers, over the last four years:
- 254 rape kits were in the hands of officers
- 33 of them were sent to the lab to be tested
- 87% of the kits have not been tested
"That's not a good number,” said Ilse Knecht, an advocate for people who have been sexually abused and works for the Joyful Heart Foundation in New York. "We see that kind of percentage across the country, and when we see those kinds of numbers and then they go back and test their kits, they are finding serial offenders that are committing all kinds of crime."
She said the problem has a lot to do with how officers are trained and the rules in place surrounding how rape kits are handled.
The Omaha police department said it looks at a variety of factors when determining which kits to test:
- Whether the victim and suspect had a recent consensual sexual relationship within a close timeframe
- If the suspect acknowledges a sexual encounter, but states it is consensual
- What other investigative actions or dna testing make more sense to complete rather than testing the kit itself
Capt. Bang said through email, "If case facts determine that a case warrants a kit be tested, we will submit that kit to one of two facilities, the NE state crime lab or UNMC. We have not had a situation where a kit that should be tested is not tested due to financial constraints."
In this regard, the department said, over the years, its protocol has not changed.
Knecht did recognize the improvements in record keeping at many police departments across the country.
The Omaha's department now keeps a closer eye on whether kits have been sent to the lab for testing.
"A lot of people tend to think that rape victims are doing this for justice for themselves, but a lot of these people are doing this for justice for others,” said Ren Drincik of Nebraska Sexual Assault and Abuse Prevention. "One of the biggest things that I've seen when I've talked with prosecutors is that repeat offenders are far more likely to get jailed. So if they go through all of these rapes kits and they find that one person has DNA in 12 of these rape kits, then that is a lot of evidence in putting that person away."
Udhus said her case is now closed, but she still hasn't heard about her kit.
"As far as I know my kit is still sitting there, hasn't been destroyed or processed through, which annoys me because of the fact that it could have been used and now its useless and just a waste of time,” said Udhus.