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'Encouraging Number': Auditor General Says Pa.'s Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits Is Fewer Than 100 After Being More Than 3,000 In 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Three out of four sexual assaults of women are not reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2016, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found a backlog of more than 3,000 unprocessed rape kits, with some dating back more than 20 years.

On Tuesday in Harrisburg, DePasquale announced the number is now under 100 untested kits.

"That's the lowest total since this has began," DePasquale said.

Alison Hall, the executive director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, says that is a very good sign.

"Given the number of sexual assaults that happen across the state, that's a really, really encouraging number," Hall said.

The 2016 audit by DePasquale's office found the number of backlogged rape kits in Pennsylvania was 3,217.

As of January 1, the number had dipped to 94.

"We don't believe it will ever be zero because the victim has to consent to the test," said DePasquale. "We always know that there's always going to be a victim or two -- maybe more -- for whatever reasons they choose, don't want to have that kit tested."

Hall has seen that for years.

"Victims are traumatized. Some can be in shock over what happened. So decisions they make that night may be very different than what they decide in a week," Hall said.

DePasquale continues to push Pennsylvania to adopt a statewide tracking system for the rape kits.

He says the Idaho State Police have a system in place and are offering it to other states for no charge.

"I think a state unified system would be really, really helpful," said Hall. "To the point of, at least, there's one repository and one keeper of all of this data."

There is another advantage for the victims.

"Rapist don't just stay in one state," said DePasquale. "They travel all over. So getting that kit tested also allows us to get it into the FBI database."

"We should want those individuals held responsible. Otherwise, that abuse is just going to continue with more and more victims. So I applaud those victims who come forward, who can do that because it's a pretty lonely place," Hall said.

In addition to the reduction in backlogged cases, DePasquale says he is seeing a much higher number of police departments self-reporting rape kits to the state government.

The original audit found that 499 of Pennsylvania's 1,100 agencies self-reported.

At the start of 2020, that number was up to 1,060 – more than double the number from just four years prior.


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