DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) - The initial test results of rape kits that went untested for decades show that some attackers have escaped prosecution for more years and have reoffended.
A rape kit contains evidence collected from a victim to help arrest and prosecute their attacker.
When the former Detroit crime lab was shut down in 2008, Michigan State Police found a stock pile of 11,000 untested rape kits. These sex crimes went unsolved for almost 30 years.
“What happened to me was horrible,” said Julie Frawley.
Frawley is a rape survivor. The Oakland County woman was 26-years-old and living in Royal Oak when she was assaulted. The stranger tied her up and raped her.
“I felt like I was in the middle of a nightmare. It didn’t feel real,” said Frawley.
One year later her attacker was caught. He is still serving life in prison for multiple sexual assaults. If Frawley’s rape kit had not been tested, he probably would not have been prosecuted for her rape.
“That was the only proof that he was the one who attacked me,” said Frawley.
Now she has a family, wrote a book about her attack, and works with Haven, a non-profit organization in Oakland County that helps victims of violence. She worries about the thousands of victims in the untested Detroit rape kits who were ignored.
“There is a feeling, whether it’s true or not, that nobody cares,” said Frawley.
Rape kits being ignored or in a backlog is not just a problem in Detroit. According to the Human Rights Watch, a non-profit group, there are 400,000-500,000 untested rape kits sitting in police storage facilities across the United States
Testing the kits is labor intensive and expensive. The testing of one kit can cost up to $1,500 dollars.
“It’s just another thing we have to deal with in a city that’s already resource strapped. But that’s no excuse,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office continues to collaborate with several agencies to test the Detroit kits. So far they have secured over $1 million dollars in grant money, but that is only enough money to examine 1,200 kits.
“We had to get rid of the blame game and try to figure out what we are going to do,” said Prosecutor Worthy.
Worthy survived a rape years several ago when she was in law school.
“It’s something I chose not to deal with psychologically so I could complete law school and move on,” she said.
Even though Worthy never reported her rape, she understands what these victims are going through.
“I certainly want to be an advocate for rape victims coming forward. The key is to making sure whoever your rapist was or is that they are not out there to reoffend,” she said.
The first 400 kits were tested through what’s being called “Project 400.” Results show there are serial rapists in Detroit that no one ever knew about.
“They found that they could solve conservatively, between 1,200 and 1,800 crimes because most of the offenders are serial offenders,” said Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Mary Murrow.
“So you can imagine if you extrapolate that to 11,000 kits how many offenses you are looking at,” said Morrow.
And they will continue to walk free unless agencies like the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office receive more grant money. More importantly they are working to make sure the same mistake does not happen again and that victims will not feel ignored or forgotten.
“Just processing the rape kit would help me to feel like somebody cared and that something horrible really did happen to me,” said Farley.
Earlier this month the first rape case from the untested kits went to trial.
A jury convicted 38-year-old Antonio Jackson of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and home invasion. The sexual assault happened in 1997.
The victim testified that she was raped in her sister’s apartment after she woke up to a man on top of her who threatened her with a gun.
Jackson’s attorney said that the two had met earlier in the day and had consensual sex that night at a different location and that she got mad when Jackson did not pay her $500 dollars like they agreed.