DETROIT – More than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in a Detroit warehouse 10 years ago, but now, almost the entire backlog is gone.
Local 4 Defender Karen Drew has been covering the story for a decade. On Wednesday, she spoke with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who commemorated what her office has accomplished in convicting rapists and leading the nation in how rapes are treated and investigated.
Laquetta Travis, 32, shared her story in front of a packed room.
"I personally dealt with this situation for 13 years for one case, 11 for another, because I had two separate kits in the backlog," Travis said.
Her rapists walked free without any investigation until 10 years ago, when Worthy took on her case and 11,000 more.
"On behalf of 11,314 of us, I would like to say thank you," Travis said.
Of the 11,341 rape kits found in 2009, 11,137 have been tested. That has led to the identification of 824 suspected serial sexual offenders, 197 convictions and 3,152 completed investigations.
"We knew it was much more than the 11,341 rape kits found in Detroit," said Carolyn Cassin, of Michigan Women Forward. "This is a national epidemic in how we treat crimes against women."
Michigan has now become a national model in terms of how rapes are investigated and prosecuted.
"It's important to remember: we have a lot more work to do," Worthy said. "We just finished the testing of the last 600 we sent. Those results are coming in. We still have a number of cases to investigate and prosecute."
"I don't want us to be portrayed as weak or victims," Travis said. "We are survivors and that's why we are here."
There are still cases going to trial. Forty states have been affected by the rape kits found in the warehouse.