Test400k will Assemble Top Leaders to Discuss Public Safety Reforms & Propose Solutions for Backlogged Rape Kit Testing

CHICAGO, April 15, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The founders of Test400k will assemble top leaders on Tuesday, April 19 to present the nation’s first rape kit notification and tracking system and to discuss two state rape kit testing models that target a 15-30 day testing period. The forum, to be held at Mesirow Financial in the James Tyree Auditorium at 353 N. Clark St on Tuesday, April 19 from 8:30am–1:15pm, will feature a wide range of speakers including Natasha Alexenko from Natasha’s Justice Project, Julie Smolyansky of Test400k, as well as representatives of the Joyful Heart Foundation and RAINN.

by Drue Kataoka

A graphic accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/a53c3401-4a5e-447c-acdd-d86fdfd0e09f

This conference comes at a highly critical time as repeated reform efforts for expedited rape kit testing have failed. Human Rights Watch has reported an estimated backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in police evidence rooms and state crime labs across the nation. This backlog delays justice for sexual assault victims for periods of months or even years, while threatening public safety as dangerous predators remain in our communities.

The forum is being held in Chicago, the first city to adopt the rape kit. Furthermore, Illinois was the first state to mandate that local police send all rape kits to the Illinois State Police (ISP) Crime Lab for testing. Despite this progress, the state has struggled to ensure timely justice for victims. Illinois sexual assault victims and investigators currently wait an estimated 12 months or longer for critical rape kit testing.

“This is about justice for victims, but we cannot forget it is also about the potential ‘next victim,’ and the safety of every community. It’s common sense: The faster we test rape kits, the faster we can help get serial predators off our streets,” says Julie Smolyansky, Co-Founder of Test400k.

The forum will feature four panels. The first two will outline the problems with rape kit testing. The last two will explore solutions:

  • “The Rape Kit Backlog in Illinois: Status of Reform, Challenges, and Solutions”
  • “Community Impact: Victims and Public Safety”
  • “National Progress: State Models, Innovations and Solutions”
  • “Bringing Advanced Technology to the Field: Cutting-Edge Solutions & Prospects for Reform”

The second panel will feature remarks from Chicago-based advocate Kristen Field, who journaled the case of a friend assaulted last year in Chicago on April 15, 2015, and has yet to be notified of the status of her rape kit – an issue that the MI notification system now addresses.

Michigan, one of the forum’s state models, has created a rape kit tracking system that has helped both victims and investigators. "With the development of Michigan’s kit tracking system, we are now able to meet the expectations of, and better serve, the countless survivors of sexual assault across our state. This transparency and efficiency is what every law enforcement agency should strive for to minimize the chances of a survivor’s sexual assault kit from ending up on a property room shelf untested. No longer will those that we have sworn to protect, sit and wonder about whether their sexual assault kit ever made it to a laboratory for testing," said Gregoire Michaud, Captain, Michigan State Police.

The event organizers will present a proposed call to action, with the national Rape Kit Action Project (RKAP), which will outline three steps as a solution to help end the backlog:

  • Test every reported rape kit
  • Test every reported rape kit within 15-30 days
  • Implement a victim notification and comprehensive rape kit tracking system

"Rapid changes in the technology of DNA testing are allowing scientist to develop DNA results more quickly every day. What used to take days, now takes only hours and will get even faster. However the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, and thus the continued victimization by unapprehended perpetrators is systemic. Inefficient systems and the failure to adequately fund the testing of those kits is the core of the problem, which should probably be more appropriately be labeled a tragedy," said panelist Christopher Asplen, Former Director of the Attorney General’s National DNA Commission.

At the conclusion of the event, attendees will lineup to sign the Call to Action in front of a piece of artwork, called "400,000 Is Not Just a Number," by Drue Kataoka, an interdisciplinary artist and activist who has created dozens of high profile projects in support of social causes and is the recipient of the Womensphere Award. The artwork consists of roughly 400,000 circles, each representing a life that has been impacted by the rape kit backlog.

The event will be hosted by Test400k Co-Founder Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods and Executive Producer of The Hunting Ground documentary along with Chicago Says No More Founder Kristie Paskvan, CFO of Mesirow Financial. The forum is generously sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific and STACS DNA/Track-Kit with additional support from the event’s partners, Chicago Says No More, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Cmr. Bridget Gainer, Off the Sidelines Chicago, Natasha’s Justice Project, Joyful Heart Foundation, RAINN.

Event Information

Tuesday, April 19
8:30am –1pm Kickoff & Panels

1pm-1:15pm Call to Action
Mesirow Financial
James Tyree Auditorium
353 N. Clark St

To register for the event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/test400k-its-about-justice-safety-the-rape-kit-backlog-technology-tickets-23234008545

About Test400k

The mission of Test400k is to eliminate the backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in the United States. A secondary mission is to develop an innovative model of quickly and cheaply test rape kits for global implementation. Test400k wants to empower healthy and safe communities by ending violence against women and children. Step 1 is to provide accountability and justice to victims.

For more information, visit http://test400k.org.

Deanne Benos Executive Director, Test400k deanne@womensjustice.net

Source: Test400K