PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There are nearly 2,000 rape kits — that have never been tested — sitting on shelves in the Portland Police Bureau. This week, the bureau revealed it is applying for a $2 million grant to help catch up on the backlog.
“The patient is documenting intimate details of the assault, and they have a very invasive exam to collect the evidence,” Makenzy Byrum, RN, told KOIN 6 News. “It can be disheartening to hear that their kit may not be processed immediately.”
Portland police began auditing the number of back-logged rape kits its bureau had accumulated after national reports showed other cities are dealing with the same problem. Some of the kits have been sitting, untouched, for nearly 30 years.
“We did an exhaustive search of these rape kits,” audit spokesperson Susan Lehman said.
Out of 3,800 kits in evidence, 1,900 are sitting untested. Some date back all the way to 1985.
“Not all of these kits are not going to solve a new crime,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said. “For example, there will be cases we find where the suspect is known to the victim, and we were able to proceed, and the kit — the testing of the kit — wouldn’t have shown anything that would help that case. There may be others where a victim decided not to come forward.”
In the past, decisions related to rape kits were left up to the detective’s discretion, a view police say is changing today.
“Regardless of whether the defendant is known or not, testing kits might help identify those types of suspects who have actually assaulted more than one person,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Ramaras said.
Police said there is also the potential to reverse prosecution, once the kits have been tested.
“That’s a possibility as well,” Simpson said.
PPB officials said they take approximately 850-900 sexual assault reports each year and take between 250 and 300 sexual assault kits into evidence.
The bureau’s Sex Crime Unit actively investigates around 57% — approximately 500 — of those cases each year.
Victims of sexual assault who wish to inquire about the status of their SAFE kit may e-mail the bureau or call 503.823.0125. For more information about programs and services available for victims, click here.