Two high-profile officials in Alameda County are spearheading an effort to resolve the backlog of rape kits sitting on shelves, waiting to be tested - as victims wait for justice.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and Congressman Mike Honda in Newark on Thursday said they are working on getting a $45 million federal grant for rape kit testing. It's a problem that affects thousands of women, they said, and it should have never happened.
"There are about 500,000 rape kits sitting on shelves being unprocessed, just gathering dust," Honda said.
Vera Ciammetti, executive director of the women’s shelter Ruby’s Place, sees the problem firsthand.
"No one ever thought there would be a rape kit that would be collected and just put on the shelf," she said. "How did it get this bad?"
Since 2013, the federal government allocated about $120 million to police departments to fund rape kit backlog processing. O’Malley was one of the first officials to call attention to the problem. A survey of police agencies in Alameda County found 2,000 kits sitting on shelves just a few years ago. Today, there are about 1,000.
"The more we test, the more serial rapists we can identify," O'Malley said. "Maybe not by name yet but by their actions. We just can’t let up."
While the backlog has been reduced in Alameda County, the number is still too high, Ciametti said.
"How many more women or men has that serial rapist raped?" she said. "How many times has he gotten away with it because no one could prosecute him."
Honda and O'Malley are hoping to get the grant money by October.