(CBS) — The Illinois State Police Crime Lab has a huge backlog of untested rape kits that could take two years to reduce, the 2 Investigators have learned.
That frustrates and infuriates rape victims, including one who agreed to talk with CBS 2’s Pam Zekman.
“He drugged and sexually assaulted me in my own house,” says the woman, who requested anonymity for this report.
She says she knew her attacker and reported him to her local police last January, submitting to a rape kit at a local hospital, which then sent samples to the state lab.
No charges have yet been filed in the case.
“We’re waiting for the rape kit to come back,” the woman says she was told by police.
What authorities didn’t tell her is that the state lab has a backlog of 1,300 rape kits that have not been tested. Some go back to mid-2014.
“It’s been ten months, and it’s incredibly frustrating,” the woman tells Zekman. “It’s like, OK, well, get my damn tests back then, so that I can get on with this.”
Testing rape kits should not take this long.
Depending on the amount of evidence collected, it can take just a few days to analyze the contents of the rape kit or a few months if there is more evidence, like clothes and bed sheets.
State law requires that evidence be sent to the lab for testing within 10 days. Then, the lab must analyze it within six months, but only if the lab has sufficient staffing available.
Arlene Hall, who heads up the state crime lab, says they’re down 13 forensic scientists.
“When you get more cases in than you’re able to work, you get a backlog,” Hall says.
She adds: “It’s my goal to have that reduced to where we can do this in-house within six months, within the next two years.”
Rape victim advocates are furious.
“What really needs to happen is that we demand that these kits get tested in days –not months, not years, not decades,” says victim advocate Julie Smolyansky. She heads a group called “Test 400K,” named after the 400,000 rape kits with results pending nationally.
Rape victim counsellors say the delay hurts victims but also leaves potentially dangerous suspects on the street.
“These guys are still out there. They’re a danger to the community because they’ve already assaulted somebody once, they could easily do it again,” says Shelley Pier from the Northeast Center Against Sexual Assault.
“You constantly feel as though you’re being victimized over and over again,” says the sexual assault victim who spoke with Zekman. “This is painful, this affects my life every day.”
To help reduce the backlog, the Illinois State Police recently hired an outside lab under a contract worth up to $5 million. Even with that help, however, it could still take two years to clean up the backlog, state officials say.