JUNEAU, Alaska — A report found Juneau is the “worst city when it comes to testing rape kits.”
Vanessa Nason, a researcher and journalist with the news site MuckRock, has been working since April to discover what happens when a police department takes physical evidence from a sexual assault or rape.
Nason sent dozens of information requests to police departments across the country. She received a response from the Juneau Police Department in late October. Nason says, “Nationwide, it’s one of the worst we’ve seen.”
Soon after Nason published a story about the Juneau data, the Alaska Department of Public Safety published a report that counted all untested rape kits in police custody in Alaska. It found 3,484, more per capita than any other state in the country, according to the counting of A Joyful Heart Foundation, which tracks such figures.
Anchorage has one untested kit for every 164 residents. In Juneau, it’s one for every 160 residents. In Nome, where 83 kits have gone untested, it’s one for every 46 residents, the Juneau Empire reported .
Deputy Attorney General Rob Henderson, head of the criminal section of the Alaska Department of Law, said by phone that there are plenty of reasons why a kit might not be tested.
“A (rape kit) is helpful, but depending upon the actual issue, it may not be determinative,” he said.
If both victim and alleged attacker agree they had sex but disagree whether that sex was consensual, physical evidence can’t help. If the prosecutor declines to take the case, or the victim decides to not press charges, the kit probably won’t be tested.
Victim advocates say that’s a bad strategy. They argue that if all kits are tested, police have a better chance to identify serial rapists.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com