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Proposed Funding Offers Justice for NC Sexual-Assault Survivors

North Carolina may have thousands of untested rape kits, but law enforcement agencies in the state aren't required to track the numbers. (University of Michigan/Flickr)
North Carolina may have thousands of untested rape kits, but law enforcement agencies in the state aren't required to track the numbers. (University of Michigan/Flickr)
February 15, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – More money could be on the way for processing rape kits in North Carolina, if President Barack Obama's 2017 budget proposal survives the contentious federal budgeting process.

Unlike other states, North Carolina does not require that law enforcement agencies track the number of rape kits collected, but most states have a backlog.

Ilse Knecht is a senior adviser for policy and advocacy with the Joyful Hearts Foundation, a group sponsoring an End the Backlog initiative. She says the federal money would go a long way toward increased justice and community safety.

"When these kits sit on shelves untested, these serial rapists remain undetected,” she explains. “These rapists commit all types of crimes. They don't just commit sexual violence. They commit burglary and robbery and homicide."

Last year, Fayetteville was awarded more than $360,000 to address its testing backlog for rape kits. Since then, the Fayetteville Police Department has charged one man with a 2010 rape after DNA linked him to the crime scene. In another case, a prison inmate was linked to a 2006 sexual assault case.

Knecht says some of the funding would support programs to help victims who discover their attacker has been caught as a result of rape kit testing.

"Every rape kit represents a sexual assault survivor, and each one of those survivors deserves to be supported through the process of re-engaging with the system, so that we're not doing more harm when we ask them to come back into the justice system, so many years later," Knecht stresses.

Public records requests made by the Joyful Heart Foundation found Charlotte has at least 1,000 untested kits. Knecht says her organization has filed similar requests to obtain information about possible backlogs in Durham and Raleigh.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC