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Award Highlights Work to End Backlog of KY Sexual Assault Cases

Sen. Denise Harper Angel is being named a Champion for Justice for her work to reduce Kentucky's backlog of untested rape kits. Credit: LRC Public Information.
Sen. Denise Harper Angel is being named a Champion for Justice for her work to reduce Kentucky's backlog of untested rape kits. Credit: LRC Public Information.
December 4, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. - An investigation earlier this year by Kentucky's state auditor uncovered 3,090 untested rape kits. According to Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, the survey of 400 law enforcement agencies across the state has kick-started efforts to eliminate the backlog of sexual-assault investigations.

"Each one of those numbers has a face," she said, "and it meant that nothing was done in their case, and now something will be done."

Auditor Adam Edelen and Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, who led the push to raise awareness of the backlog, will receive the "Champions for Justice" Award at today's Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Conference in Lexington.

Recktenwald credited Harper Angel with being the first person to draw attention to the problem in Kentucky.

"It wasn't our idea, it was her idea," she said. "She kicked off the whole thing. If it weren't for her, it wouldn't have happened."

Harper Angel sponsored a resolution in the Kentucky General Assembly ordering the survey of backlogged rape kits. As a result of the audit, Kentucky State Police have received federal dollars to begin reducing the backlog. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 400,000 rape kits are sitting in labs, untested, across the country.

Recktenwald credited Edelen for not stopping at just counting the kits, but looking into why the backlog occurred and making recommendations on how to prevent it in the future.

"The fact that he looked into it deeper," she said, "and went around the state and talked to advocates and victims and detectives, and got everybody's perspective on how could we improve the system to the point where justice happens on a regular basis - that's huge."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY