JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri reached a “milestone” last week as the first batch of untested rape kits were collected and sent to private labs, Attorney General Eric Schmitt said.
More than 100 kits were collected through the Springfield Police Department from neighboring law enforcement agencies and sent off, Schmitt told The Missouri Times. The effort is part of the SAFE Kits Initiative which Schmitt started last January to identify, collect, and test rape kits throughout Missouri — with the potential for prosection.
“When I was sworn in as attorney general, tackling this backlog of untested sexual assault kits was one of my top priorities and remains a key focus of this office heading into the new year,” Schmitt said in a statement.
In November, the Attorney General’s Office identified more than 6,100 rape kits that remained untested across Missouri and flagged an additional 830 that might need to be readdressed.
Schmitt said he was “pleased with the progress” made in getting the first batch of untested kits sent to the labs and praised the “cooperative work” between law enforcement, victim advocacies, hospitals, his own office, and others.
“Springfield Police Department has been involved in this effort from the beginning. We are pleased to partner with the Attorney General to be able to send backlogged sexual assault kits from throughout Southwest Missouri to a lab for testing,” Springfield Police Department Chief Paul Williams said.
With an existing federal grant, Missouri is expected to be able to test only about 1,250 of the kits. But Schmitt said he’s going to “continue to advocate for funding.”
“It’s important to remember these kits are not just numbers. They are not footnotes to the reporting of a crime,” Schmitt said when the audit was released. “They represent real human beings, who have suffered, confronted their fears, reported the assault, and submitted a kit. A kit that may have been put on a shelf and remained untested — until now.”
The Attorney General’s Office has planned for major metropolitan police departments, such as Springfield’s, to “host” and gather untested sexual assault kits from neighboring departments as batches are sent to labs.
A private lab has been contracted to ensure the kits are tested quickly and without hindering the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s own facilities, the office said.
In the legislature, a pair of bills are working through the General Assembly that would change how the state tracks and handles rape kits. From Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig, SB 569 would streamline the testing process and give victims or advocates greater ability to track the kits.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.