More than $3.9M provided for rape kit testing - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

More than $3.9M provided for rape kit testing

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

City of Memphis received more than $3.9 million in federal funding to help finish processing the thousands of rape kits that remain untested.

Justice could be in the near future for many victims, who have already waited far too long.

"These grants will allow us to continue the work that began two years ago, using no additional City of Memphis tax dollars," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

U.S. Department of Justice provided Memphis with more than $1.9 million to test the rape kits. New York County District Attorney's Office also chipped in $1,995,000.

"It was the victims who suffered. The victims who were ignored. The victims who were not heard, who have brought us to this point today," Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said. "And now we must continue to win the good, hard work that started two years ago."

The two groups provided $80 million to cities nationwide.

"The most important thing is providing closure, providing services, providing the therapeutic services that our survivors need," said Doug McGowen, who leads the Sexual Assault Kit Taskforce. "And these grant resources give us the ability to provide new and effective therapeutic resources for the survivors."

In addition to testing the rape kits, the money will fund expert witnesses, travel expenses for out of state victims, and additional investigative resources. 

So far in Memphis, only 40 percent of 12,374 kits have been tested. That means more than 4,900 victims are still waiting; some have been waiting since the 1970s.

"I want to be able to say that during my time as director we alleviated the rape kit backlog," said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. "With the awards that have been forwarded to the city, this is certainly a step in that direction."

Shelby County's Rape Crisis Center will be one of the programs selected to provide counseling for victims. 

An administrator with that program says those services will start next year.

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