Why Is Rape Kit Testing So Expensive?
How Cheap Gene Sequencing Technology Should Be a Game Changer
If cheap and ubiquitous DNA testing can catch killers and rapists, then why are so many rape kits still sitting untested?
During the O.J. Simpson trial, prosecutor Marcia Clark had the unenviable task of describing DNA profiling to jurors. She tried valiantly to explain the incredible precision of restriction fragment length polymorphism tests and how they pointed to Simpson. Ultimately, jurors were more convinced by the size of a glove than with statistics and DNA.
Luckily, after many years and thousands of CSI reruns, the public is much better educated about the power of genomics. Just last year, decades-old DNA evidence and the publicly available GEDmatch database were used to find the Golden State Killer. More and more crimes seem close to being solved using the same public data and DNA.
This raises an obvious question. If cheap and ubiquitous DNA testing can catch killers and rapists, then why are so many rape kits still sitting untested? It’s well known that many violent crimes are perpetrated by serial offenders. Failing to use evidence that could catch them seems insane.
In the 90s, there may have been good reasons not to prioritize rape kit testing. In 2019 there are no excuses. Let’s take a look at why the rape kit backlog exists and why it must be addressed now.
Why the Backlog?
The main reason for the backlog is a lack of resources.
- Lack of protcols for rape kit testing
- Knowledge gaps and lack of training
- Whether the identity of the perpetrator is known
- Lack of resources
- Outdated lab policies
Of these, reasons 1,2 and 5 come down to awareness and training — things that can and must be addressed. In fact, proposals like the one from Democratic candidate Kamala Harris do a good job of…