DETROIT (WWJ) – Nearly 300 prosecutors, victim advocates, police officials and forensic and behavioral scientists will convene in Detroit to focus on how sexual assault cases are handled.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says that sex assaults are still a widely under-reported crime, one of the issues that will be examined in the three-day sexual assault summit.
“Sexual assault victims have been treated poorly throughout time immemorial in this country, and this crime just hasn’t been a priority for many people,” Worthy telling WWJ. “I think that’s one of the reasons why – because no one would ever lose or stockpile evidence from homicide cases, for example, I can’t really speak as to why it happened in the other cities or even here, for a myriad of other reasons, we really have to start taking stock of how we treat sexual assault victims and their evidence.”
Worthy says there are still about 700 Detroit rape kits left to test–out of the initial backlog of more than 11,000 kits.
“Testing just from our kits have been linked to crime scenes in 39 other states in this country. So there are only 10 states in this country that haven’t been touched by our rape kits on the shelves,” says Worthy.
The event will feature victim–centered approaches to handling sexual assault cases, focusing on offender behavior instead of victim behavior. It will also feature a multi-disciplinary approach to cold case sexual assault investigations where all team members are trained in the effects of trauma on behavior and memory.
Topics include evidence-based best practices, lessons learned from communities dealing with the problem of untested rape kits and research from national experts.
“Even more important than that,” says Worthy, “we have been prosecuting cases all along, and we are now up to 62 convictions, we have over 770 identified serial rapists and over 50 of them have 10 -15 hits a piece — again, these are only the rapes that we know about – and they have been matched in the national data base.”
Worthy says public awareness has led to more victims reporting sexual assaults, along with arrests and convictions.