INDIANAPOLIS — A backlog of roughly 6,600 sexual assault test kits in Marion County will soon undergo examination, but it will likely take years to finish. In 2018, CBS4 Investigates found flaws in how Indiana dealt with untested kits.
Now, four years later, there’s momentum behind testing the kits in Marion County. We asked the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Coordinator Jane French if she was surprised by the backlog.
“No,” Jane French said. “No. We knew there was a large number of them. That’s how it is nationally. It’s not just an Indianapolis or a Marion County problem, it’s a national problem.”
The batch of testing kits dates back to 1995. French said the $1.4 million grant from the Department of Justice will provide for the testing and helped secure French’s position as the SAKI coordinator.
Currently, the initiative entails one forensic scientist testing between 20 and 30 kits per month.
“Eventually we will need to seek additional funding which we are already working on to outsource some of these kits,” French said. “We can’t burden an already burdened system.”
Scientists assume some results will come back inconclusive or not have enough data. In most cases, French said her team has one year from the time they discover evidence to charge the offender.
Advocate Stephanie Stewart, who survived her own sexual assault, hopes justice comes swiftly for these victims.
“Wow,” Stewart said after hearing more about the backlog. “Well, I think it’s shocking for one because the longer those test kits sit there, the more time there are perpetrators out there that could assault someone else.”
The results of some of the tests will be entered into the CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System. This tool allows authorities to look at perpetrators whose DNA profiles are included.
“Of the other SAKI sites nationally, I think they’re finding about a 25% DNA hit, a CODIS hit rate, so that’s substantial,” French explained.
The testing is complex, as is sharing the information with the victims. The SAKI team is currently figuring out the best way to share that sensitive information.
“We want to lessen the re-traumatization of having to walk through this fire again,” French said. “This is going to be shocking for a number of these people who are going about their lives and now we’re going to re-open this wound for them.”
The SAKI team is contemplating which kits to test first. The group overseeing the initiative includes members from IMPD, the prosecutor’s office and victim advocates.
A note for victims: If the assault occurred in Marion County prior to April 2019 you may leave a message with IMPD Victim Services Manager/SAKI liaison Lisa Brown at (317) 327-3331 with instructions on how to contact your confidentially or email email@example.com to discuss your sexual assault kit.