FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - Picture this — a heinous crime is committed. There is evidence, but authorities let it languish for years. That is the unfortunate reality all over the country as rape kit backlogs remain untouched.
In 2019, rapists could be walking free simply because the resources aren’t there to run the tests.
It is disheartening, it is maddening and it’s why the issue took center stage Tuesday night at George Mason University.
FOX 5 was there as students screened a documentary, called “I am Evidence.” They also heard from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has made this issue a top priority.
Using more than $3 million in grant money, the state has almost eliminated their entire rape kit backlog and they’ve also invested in law enforcement training that they say will ensure a more survivor-centered, trauma-informed response to sexual violence.
“It is really important for survivors to know this, to know that their commonwealth stands with them, and as their attorney general, I will always do that,” said Herring. “And it also means that we have an opportunity to make sure that if there are perpetrators still out there, we bring them to justice.”
“For the victim who has already been violated to not have a sense that they have real full access to justice, none of us would want to be in that situation,” said Toni Zollicoffer, division director of Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.
This is not just a Virginia issue. Maryland, for example, still has thousands of rape kits that have gone untested, according to the website “End The Backlog”, which tracks this issue nationwide.