'This is categorically unacceptable': St. Joseph County leads state in untested rape kits
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY —
"It's harder to make the case that 'yes you need to do this' when there's a backlog of rape kits that are not being processed,” said Linda Baechle. CEO of the YWCA of North Central Indiana.
1 in 5 women will be raped in her life time. For many of those women the first step in getting justice is completing a rape kit.
An audit of the Indiana State Police revealed a backlog of untested rape kits all over the state.
St. Joseph County is in the lead with 478. To put it in perspective-- Elkhart County has 79 and Marshall County has 10.
The County prosecutor says he's working to fix the problem. But leaders with the YWCA say that backlog hurts women.
"It's really disturbing because we know that rapists tend to be serial rapists, so there's not just one victim,” said Baechle.
Even if a rapist only has one victim, Baechle says that victim still needs their day in court.
“The experience of having someone say what happened is wrong and hold someone accountable for what happened to them is something that can be therapeutic and important,” said Baechle.
She says completing a rape kit is hard enough already. It's an invasive procedure she says can be very dehumanizing for a victim.
Baechle worries how the news of the backlog of nearly 500 rape kits will effect victims.
"What we don't want is for it to have a chilling effect on victims, that they feel 'why should I when nothing's going to happen anymore with the case,” Baechle said.
Prosecutor Ken Cotter is out of town and couldn't sit down for an interview. He did send a statement, saying: "This is categorically unacceptable."
Cotter says he's working with law enforcement to figure out what caused the backlog and prevent another in the future.
Baechle says she has a lot of confidence in him.
"I believe that he is committed to get to the bottom of it and I appreciate that we have a prosecutor who's willing to look at it and see where the problem stems from,” she said.
Baechle says it’s more important than ever to process rape kits. She says technology has gotten better and there are more DNA samples in law enforcement data bases.
That means it's easier for investigators to make a match and give the victims a sense of justice.