Missouri attorney general announces plans for rape kit investigation
COLUMBIA - Missouri's attorney general said he is investigating the backlog of unprocessed rape kits.
Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Thursday his office will start an investigation to solve rape victims’ cases.
Hawley said it was long overdue for Missouri to start its investigation especially since 32 other states have started investigating.
“One in six women in our country face some sort of sexual assault in their life times,which is unbelievable and utterly unacceptable.” Hawley said.
Hawley said he and his office plan on finding out who is responsible for the rape kits not being sent to law enforcement. He also said the investigation will start with interviewing hospitals, emergency service providers, law enforcement and crime labs.
Jennifer Carter Dochler, the Public Policy Director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said there isn’t just one cause for the backlog.
“Sometimes there is a backlog because survivors do not know if they do want to come forward.” Dochler said.
Candice Kundert, a Columbia counselor, said the investigation can help more victims come forward and help victims psychologically.
“I get people who are in their sixties and seventies who’ve never reported it to anyone. It can affect all of their relationships it's not just sexual.” Kundert said.
Dochler said MCADSV said it tries to close the gap between the rape kits and who receives them by holding meetings with local law enforcement, rape centers, prosecutors, crime labs, and crisis centers about sexual assault within the state.
Hawley said the first plan of business is finding how large and far back the backlog goes within the state is a key component to tackling the issue. He said there are about 87 rape kits in Columbia the Columbia Police Department still hasn’t received.
Hawley said finding the rape kits will help law enforcement solve the cases they probably didn’t know existed.
He said he doesn’t want for the back log to vanish like it has in other cities in the country.
“In cities and in states that have processed through and have gotten rid of their rape kit backlog like Detroit and Cleveland for instance, law enforcement has found hundreds of pieces of additional evidence that allows them to prosecute crimes they did not even know were committed.” Hawley said.
Hawley said he commends victims for coming forward and encourages them to keep telling their stories for justice.
“We have to do our part for those who have been victims to make sure that their evidence is brought to light and that their perpetrator and their attackers are brought to justice. Hawley said.