By Jen Kastner
MIDLAND- Nationwide, there is a massive backlog of untested rape kits. By some estimates, there could be around 400,000 of them. On Wednesday, Texas Senator John Cornyn stopped by the Midland Police Department for a press conference to talk about his fight against this problem.
The Senator claims that Congress appropriates around $125 million each year to go towards rape kit testing. However, he explains, as low as only 40% of those funds are actually used for testing. The rest, he tells us, is used for administrative purposes. Senator Cornyn is determined to change that by highlighting a bill he's trying to push through the Senate which would eliminate the rape kit backlog.
Alongside Senator Cornyn stood Midland rape survivor Lennah Frost. She recounted part of her attack for listeners. "I tried to hit the guy with a crystal lamp that was by my bed. I hit him and I think that probably made him mad because he hit me in the face and he broke my nose and he sexually assaulted me." After Frost's rape, she submitted all her evidence to go into a rape kit for testing, in effort to find the perpetrator.
"[Nurses] basically take everything from your body. They take scrapings from under your finger nails. They take vaginal fluid. They take anything that the perpetrator may have let behind," she said.
14 years later, her rapist was caught. The submission and testing of that kit was to thank. The power of the rape kits is driving her and other tall city leaders to join forces with Senator Cornyn to wipe out the lengthy backlog of untested rape kits.
"Some of [those kits] are sitting in evidence lockers at police departments that have not been forwarded to the labs. [Those] are called the hidden backlogs. Then we [also] have what people would pretty much acknowledge as the obvious backlogs. Those are the ones that are sent to the labs but have not yet been tested," Cornyn said.
In the bill he's trying to push through the Senate, he wants to implement a system where at least 75% of the Congressional funds used for testing would actually go towards more testing and faster testing.
"If too much time goes by, the statute of limitations runs out and you cannot get a conviction for that crime," Cornyn said.
He's also trying to create a national registry to keep track of where all these kits are in their processes of being testing. It's called SAFER, which stands for the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act.