In 2009, 11,000 untested rape kits were found sitting in a Detroit Police Department storage room. Some of them had been there for over 20 years. Last year, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office announced that the backlog had been cleared. Earlier this week, a local activist and the Wayne County Prosecutor were honored by the Museum of the Courageous for their work clearing the backlog.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘thank God I did not report.’ It’s the police department, it’s the culture” — Kim Trent, Detroit-based activist on why she did not report a sexual assault incident that occurred to her decades ago
Listen: How a culture of disbelieving women helped create a backlog of rape kits.
Kym Worthy is the Wayne County Prosecutor. Worthy says more than 80% of the rape kits were submitted by women of color, adding that these women specifically are least likely to be taken seriously regarding sexual assault cases. “I didn’t want them to be an ignored part of the criminal justice system,” says Worthy. “I wanted them to believe again in the criminal justice system after they were so [poorly] treated.”
Kim Trent is a Detroit-based activist and communications consultant. Trent says there were a number of different motivators to clearing the backlog, including reforming a culture that frequently blames rape survivors. Trent recalls the Mike Tyson sexual assault charges, and why the backlash against the survivors dissuaded her from bringing her own rape case forward. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘thank God I did not report.’ It’s the police department, it’s the culture,” she says.