Victims wait as rape kits go untested

Rape Kit 1

(WTNH) — In November 2012, Dawn Artis called 911. She needed police and an ambulance. She said she had just been raped.

Hartford Police quickly responded. Just two hours later, she was in a hospital having a rape kit taken. She was told she would get information back and an arrest would be made.

Instead, her case was sealed and she was left without answers years later. And she is not alone.  (Note:  News 8 does not normally identify sexual assault victims, but Artis asked us to show her face and use her name.)

Connecticut made drastic changes to the way it processes rape kits, which can be integral to solving sexual assault crimes. But are the issues being fixed?

Thursday night at 11, the News 8 Investigators share victims’ stories of frustration over a lack of action from the police and the state.

Rape Kit 2

You’ve probably seen and heard it mentioned in TV crime shows, but what actually is a rape kit? According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) the kit is:

“…generally a large envelope or cardboard box, which can safely store evidence collected from your body or clothing. While the contents of a sexual assault forensic exam may vary by state and jurisdiction, it may include items, such as:
• Instructions
• Bags and sheets for evidence collection
• Swabs
• Comb
• Envelopes for hair and fibers
• Blood collection devices
• Documentation forms

Here’s some of what we’ve uncovered across the state of Connecticut:

Connecticut State Police Crime Lab

  • The state reports a backlog of 97 untested rape kits. The state has reduced the backlog by more than 50% recently.

Hartford Police

  • Hartford police requested News 8 provide a Freedom of Information request to obtain the data. As of this update, no records have been provided in response to our request.

New Haven Police

  • The New Haven police department has an unknown number of rape kits in evidence, but all have been tested, according to Lt. Rachel Cain. They are stored in evidence indefinitely.

Bridgeport Police

  • There are no kits waiting to be tested, according to police department spokesman Bill Kaempffer.

Bristol Police

  • Bristol police had sent a number of kits to the state lab. On March 24, 2014, officers received a call from the state lab asking if they “still needed” a number of rape kits tested.

Watch the News 8 Investigators special report Thursday night at 11 on News 8, and bookmark this link for more information.

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