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Wayne County Prosecutor says private donors funded rape kit testing

Kym Worthy
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Kym Worthy (file photo)

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says her office is still accepting donations to fund the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults linked to a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits.

In 2009, 11,341 rape kits were discovered in a decrepit Detroit police warehouse. Worthy says she was disgusted and horrified at the discovery, but her office was at an extreme disadvantage when it came to the money necessary to test all the kits.

“We were starting from behind the 8 ball. We had no money when we first started ten years ago. It costs from $1200 to $1500 to test per kit," she said in an interview with Stateside. "We’re talking about a city that was three or four years away from the largest municipal bankruptcy that has been [declared] in the United States, so we had no funds.”

She says individual donors were crucial in funding the project, citing “house parties, campaign parties” and credits “suburban women [opening] up their homes, a hundred groups of Black women who opened up their pockets” with funding the cause prior to getting funding from the state, federal, and county governments.  

“With all the work that's been done with the Michigan Women's Foundation, with the county, with the state, with the federal government, and with individual donors, it's allowed us to raise the money to have all the kits tested, which they are now all tested, but we now all have to investigate and prosecute them,” Worthy said.

Now that all the kits have been tested, Worthy and her team need to investigate and prosecute all of these sexual assault kits, but the money still isn’t there.

“We still have to rely on grants, and the county has been gracious enough to give us almost a million dollars a year, but that doesn't cover everything, so yes, we still take donations, we still raise funds, we still apply for every grant that we can to help us continue this effort,” she said.

So far, the investigations have resulted in 197 convictions. 282 cases have been adjudicated so far, with 211 cases actively being investigated and another 377 awaiting investigation. In addition, the investigation has identified 824 suspected serial rapists. But this hasn’t been easy, Worthy says.

“We have a number of survivors that are deceased now, because, like I said, [the rape kits] go back 45 years now. We have defendants that now are deceased. We have survivors that didn’t want to prosecute when we knocked on their doors years later.” She adds, “overwhelmingly, most of our survivors want to prosecute and go forward, but we won’t make them if they don’t want to.” 

She says the public can expect the number to rise as they continue to investigate the results of each rape kit.

“Out of all this effort, we have 197 convictions which really represents many more people than that, because many of our defendants have been serial rapists, and some of our cases have been barred by the statute of limitations when we discovered them. We have an aggressive effort that we have been doing for the last ten years, but we have a lot more cases to investigate and prosecute, so those numbers will go up.”

You can hear Worthy's interview with Stateside in the audio included at the top of this post.

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