YUMA, Ariz. – Governor Doug Ducey launched a special team to help clear rape kit backlog Wednesday.
For many years sexual assault kits have been waiting in labs for results to come in. Not just here in the desert southwest but throughout the country, crime labs struggle to keep up with timely testing of the kits. The issue has resulted in a backlog of 2,300 untested kits in Maricopa County alone.
Diane Umphress, Executive Director of Amberly’s Place, talks about how this is a nationwide problem- not just in issue in Arizona. She also mentions how sometimes these victims don’t know who their abuser is.
“They’re hoping that through the DNA process they’ll be able to find out who that is and if its not processed then they’re living with this fear of are they going to come back,” Umphress said.
The special team will produce recommendations for requiring testing of every rape kit and aid in ensuring justice for sexual assault victims.
Umphress said, “Funding has been a huge issue and for us in Yuma County we send all of our evidence to the DPS crime lab in Phoenix. I’m sure there’s other agencies that do the same thing. So when you don’t have a lot of agencies to process it I’m sure funding has been one of the issues with this.”
Ducey also announced the members of the Arizona Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force, a bipartisan coalition of victim advocates, law enforcement officials and policy makers focused on addressing this issue.
Umphress adds, “I think that once we see an issue and a problem and the more people that address it and come together to address it the better it is for us and the better hope we have of it actually being addressed.”