Illinois law doesn't require that police submit kits to a crime lab for testing -- only that kits be retrieved from the hospital within two weeks.The decision to not test certain rape kits, and the reasons given for doing so, reinforces how important prevention is.
The suburban police departments said rape kits are stored untested if the victim recants the allegations, doesn't want to press charges or is found not to be credible. They are also kept if investigators don't believe the case is strong, if the suspect acknowledges he had sex but says it was consensual, or if the state's attorney's office refuses to prosecute.
"Part of it is, you want to see where the case is going before you use those resources, how is it going to shake out," said Kurt Bluder, deputy chief of the Downers Grove Police Department, adding that police can always pull kits out of storage if they later decide testing could prove valuable.
"Are you going to get a confession? Is there a suspect? Do we want to put things in the pipeline and system without knowing for sure we're going to need it? If every department sent in every piece of evidence to be examined, we'd bring the system to its knees."
The Illinois State Police Crime Lab continues to struggle with a DNA backlog, causing nearly yearlong delays in the testing of some rape kits.
Investigators commonly urge all sex crimes victims to report, but many law enforcement agencies can't keep up with the current rate of reporting. If the number of reports increased significantly there could be much more pressure to quickly close cases which don't seem likely to result in conviction. A handy way of doing this while keeping the rape statistics low is to mark more cases as unfounded or false.
One of the reasons given not to test a rape kit is the alleged victim's lack of credibility. However, testing those rape kits could prove that the non-credible victim was telling the truth.
Another reason given was that the suspect claimed consent, but testing the rape kit would provide evidence if the suspect later claimed there was no contact. Testing the rape kit with a known suspect may also provide a match to an unsolved crime or one where the charge is identified by DNA alone.
If every rape kit collected in the US were processed then the number of matches would go up and what had seemed like unrelated unwinnable cases could become one winnable case once the number of alleged victims with a similar pattern of perpetration increases.
The problem involves different police forces, but the problem is bigger. Are we as citizens willing to pay for the processing of more forensic evidence? Are we willing to pay more in the short run to develop primary prevention programs to save money and reduce trauma in the long run?