JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State law enforcement agencies, crime labs, and hospitals identified a total of 5,424 untested sexual assault kits, or “rape kits,” according to a report released Monday by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Josh Hawley announced that the state has received a $2.8 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to helps with the testing backlog.
In conducting this audit, the Attorney General’s Office received information from 372 law enforcement agencies, 87 healthcare providers, and 5 crime labs. These numbers represent the sexual assault evidence kits contained in law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, and crime labs who voluntarily responded to the request for information.
The audit was announced in November following the Columbia Missourian publishing an investigation into the backlog.
“To undergo a sexual assault evidence examination is a brave act,” Hawley said. “No kit should languish untested when its collection requires such courage. My hope is that this grant funding will allow Missouri to test all existing kits and to establish statewide protocols that will prevent any kit from going untested in the future.”
Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will help fund testing of those sexual assault evidence kits that currently remain untested. Funding from the grant will also support efforts to standardize collection, retention, and testing protocols across the state.
The Attorney General’s Office said they will work with stakeholder to develop an electronic tracking system for all sexual assault evidence kits that will allow victims and law enforcement to follow a kit from collection through trial. At present, no such system exists.
The working group of stakeholders first meeting is scheduled for October 10. Representatives come from a variety of backgrounds across the state that include: the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Missouri Office of Prosecutorial Services, Missouri Hospital Association, St. Louis University Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Springfield Police Department, County Prosecutors, Victim Advocates, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.