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Some Relief for Tennessee Rape Kit Testing Backlog

Alexenko (left) pictured with Vice President Joe Biden at a recent event to raise awareness for the backlog of rape kits in New York. Courtesy: Alexenko
Alexenko (left) pictured with Vice President Joe Biden at a recent event to raise awareness for the backlog of rape kits in New York. Courtesy: Alexenko
September 14, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Thousands of rape kits sit on police department shelves across Tennessee some going untested for as long as 30 years. Late last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the District Attorney of New York announced that Memphis will be receiving nearly $4 million to process the 12,000 backlogged rape evidence kits in that city alone.

Natasha Alexenko is a survivor of rape and waited nine years before her kit was processed.

"Basically, your body becomes a crime scene after an assault," says Alexenko. "My hope when I went in for a rape kit was, 'OK, let's find this guy' and then to find out that, oh my gosh, all that I went through was almost for nothing."

Alexenko fought to have her kit processed, and her attacker was caught and convicted 15 years later, after committing multiple other violent crimes across the country. She now runs Natasha's Justice Project, with a goal of ending the backlog of cases found in cities across the nation.

Nashville has a backlog of 200 rape kits and Knoxville has 394, according to the website,endthebacklog.org.

Alexenko says, as in her case, rapists left uncaught often go on to commit other crimes. Once their DNA is entered into the database, it makes it possible for law enforcement to more easily identify and apprehend dangerous criminals.

"It's just such a phenomenal investigative tool, and to know that these kits are sitting there, not doing anything. It's not only tragic, it's disgusting. It's just unfair to the American people."

Processing a rape kit can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Alexenko says in cities where there is no backlog, there are reports of increased incidences of perpetrators being caught and a reduction in repetitive crime.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN