Philadelphia Receives Grant to Resolve Rape Kit Backlog

A total of almost $80 million will be disbursed nationally.

Map of grant recipients from Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Map of grant recipients from Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Solid colors reflect grants that impact an entire state. | Courtesy New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Yesterday Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that 32 jurisdictions in 20 states — including the City of Philadelphia — would receive part of a total $38 million in grant money from his office to tackle a backlog of unprocessed rape kits. According to a detailed breakdown of the awards, Philadelphia will receive $419,788 to address a backlog of 600 untested rape kits. (The Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner, with a backlog of 400 kits, was the only other jurisdiction in Pennsylvania to receive funding, in the amount of $254,437.) The largest award, almost $2 million, went to the state of Georgia, which has a backlog of more than 3,000 untested kits.

Previously, cities like Philadelphia balked at the obstacles involved in resolving their backlogs — including financial constraints. But Vance’s office has made arrangements for grant recipients to have rape kits tested for a discounted rate of less than $675 per kit. The average nationwide cost is between  $1,000 to $1,500 per kit, according to Vance’s office. DA Vance also thanked actor Mariska Hargitay — founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has spearheaded the backlog effort — for her “relentless advocacy.”

At the same press conference, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced another $41 million in funding to 20 jurisdictions from the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant Program, which did not award any funds to Philadelphia. Biden has been tireless in his support of rape survivors. “Rape kits are an essential tool in modern crime fighting — not only for the victim, but for the entire community,” Biden said at the conference. “Studies show we solve up to 50 percent of previously unsolved rapes when these kits are tested. When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets. For most survivors, seeing their rapists brought to justice, and knowing that they will not return, brings peace of mind and a sense of closure.”

Attorney General Lynch also offered an inspiring message to survivors: “For anyone who has felt isolated and afraid, left out and left behind as a result of a sexual crime, our message is clear: We will not forget you. We will not abandon you. You are not alone.”

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