When a violent crime is committed and reported, it's expected that investigators will collect evidence, process it, and use that evidence to track down the perpetrator. But in tens of thousands of rape cases, that is not what happens. Instead, the evidence collected is shelved and left unprocessed for years. In many cases, the rape kits are stored incorrectly so that contamination is likely to occur. In other cases, the kits have even been deliberately destroyed by the police.
In places like Los Angeles and New York, efforts have been made to change this. And now Detroit and Houston are taking steps to do the same.
Helena Lazaro was kidnapped and raped when she was 17 by a man who went on to commit additional crimes during the six years her rape kit went unprocessed. Natasha Alexenko was 20 when she was raped and robbed at gunpoint in her apartment building. Her rape kit went unprocessed for nearly a decade. She has since set up a foundation to stop these sorts of rape kit backlogs from continuing, called Natasha’s Justice Project.