The Dark Side of Clearing America’s Rape Kit Backlog


In March 1993, a 40-year-old Cleveland crack addict, later called “Ellen” in local media reports, was viciously attacked and raped. She said her attacker came up to her on the street, hit her with a brick, sprayed her with mace, raped her and tried to strangle her with her sock. Her wounds required 300 stitches. But it wasn’t until 20 years later that police came to her door and announced they had a suspect. Charges were filed one day before the statute of limitations ran out.

Ellen’s case is one of thousands being reopened in a new national push to account for the what has been dubbed a vast “backlog” of untested “rape kits,” biological evidence collected from victims of alleged sexual assaults that has languished for a variety of reasons — some legitimate, others remiss —  before it’s compared to a national database of known criminals and unsolved crimes…

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