— From the USA Today Network-Wisconsin
“We owe it to those who had the courage to report a sexual assault.”
That’s what Attorney General Brad Schimel said last year when he announced the state was offered $2 million to test backlogged rape kits.
In 2014, there were more than 6,000 untested rape kits sitting on shelves in Wisconsin. Guess how many from that backlog have been tested in the year-plus since the grant was announced?
There has been no progress figuring out why Wisconsin has thousands of untested kits even though there is money available to solve that problem.
The state Department of Justice won’t say who is to blame for the delay — whether it’s their own department or police agencies around the state that store the kits — but we do know that testing the rape kits is obviously not a priority. If it was, law enforcement officials in our state would already have acted with urgency.
The thousands of untested rape kits, which include DNA samples collected in invasive tests after someone says they have been assaulted, mean that the kits’ crime-solving value is unknown.
Are there serial rapists that could be brought to justice once a pattern is detected in the tests? Do some cases sitting on shelves have a statute of limitations deadline approaching? Is there a common reason why so many kits go untested and can the state fix that problem?
We just don’t know.
Our law enforcement agencies have dragged their feet. Agencies big and small have to make decisions on how to allocate their limited resources. The decision they’re projecting to the public in this case is that clearing out untested rape kits is not a priority.
It’s time for the Department of Justice to make it public which law enforcement agencies are cooperating and which ones are not. We want to know which of our departments take sexual assault cases seriously. We owe it to those who had the courage to speak up.