A new grant will help Maryland test rape kits in order to help potentially solve thousands of sexual assault cases, some dating back to the 1990s.
The grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance totals $2.6 million over three years to the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Office of the Attorney General and the Maryland State Police.
Laura Jessick, of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said at an online news conference Tuesday that the money would go toward resources, personnel and equipment for the testing, as well as services for victims.
She added that there were about 5,800 untested rape kits in Maryland; Aisha Braveboy, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, said around 2,000 of them were in her county.
Kristen Lease, manager of forensic sciences for the Prince George’s County police, said the rape-kit backlog goes back to the early 1990s, while Melissa Hoppmeyer, chief of the special victims of family violence unit, said, “We prosecute cases from the ‘90s, from the ‘80s — I think I’ve prosecuted one case from the ‘70s.”
“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since your case was reported,” said Prince George’s County police Capt. Nicholas Collins.
Braveboy said she hoped the long-delayed testing would help people get justice.
“Behind every kit is a victim,” Braveboy said. “A victim of the most personal, and one of the most brutal crimes that anyone can ever face. … And so we are committed, no matter when that crime was committed … to getting justice for our victims.”
Jessick said that her coalition would be involved in helping survivors get their situations resolved in the way they want. Survivors can call 833-364-0046 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braveboy called victims and survivors of sexual assault “the strongest people you will ever meet. … They have survived, and some of them want to pursue justice. And we want to be here for that.”