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Conn. Gets Federal Funding To Clear Rape Kit Testing Backlog

(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

In New York City on Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Vice President Joe Biden announced that they’re giving out more than $70 million in funding to clear backlogs of untested rape kits throughout the country. Rape kits include DNA and forensic evidence after incidents of sexual assault. Connecticut is receiving nearly $1.5 million of that federal funding, to clear a backlog of its own.

In July, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a law that said rape kits have to be tested within 60 days after they’re collected. That law was signed after a state survey investigated how many untested rape kits were in police departments across Connecticut.

"It identified close to 900 kits sitting in law enforcement across the state," said Guy Vallaro, Director of the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory. Vallaro said that’s twice the amount of rape kits the lab usually tests in a year.

"To understand that there’s, um, double your annual volume that’s sitting out there that will come here, well, you start to think of various ways that you can approach the having to do that extra work," he said.

That’s why the state department of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection applied to the federal Department of Justice for the grant, so Connecticut could promptly test the kits. Some things the money will cover include supplies, and overtime hours that workers will spend analyzing the kits.

Vallaro’s team has already tested about 100 kits, even before getting the grant. He said “it was too important to wait.”

Deborah Heinrich, Director of Public Policy and Communication with Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, said the grant will help Connecticut pay for the rest of the kits to be tested, but the state still has to ask itself how the backlog happened.

"We want to really dig in and ask ourselves why these kits were backlogged," she said. "How can Connecticut better respond to sexual assault victims and survivors so that we don’t have this problem again?"

In a July press release, Malloy said he would be starting a working group to investigate why law enforcement agencies hadn’t been sending the kits to the state forensics lab. Heinrich says the people on that working group still haven’t been announced.

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.