In 2009, over 11,000 untested rape kits were found in a Detroit Police Department storage unit.
Totaling to 11,341 to be exact, these rape kits were unopened and unprocessed. 11,341. Like most numbers, each of those kits corresponds to a real person. A name. A face. A victim who trusted Detroit’s justice system enough to report their assault.
African American 490 Challenge is a fundraising initiative begat by Detroit’s Enough SAID (Sexual Assault In Detroit). Made up of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission, Enough SAID and the AA 490 Challenge seek to fund the testing of these rape kits as they cost $490 a piece to process. Additionally, these organizations aim to fund the investigations of these crimes with the hope that the more than 11,000 victims can obtain some semblance of satisfaction in the form of prosecution. Detroit’s 12 investigators cannot manage this sudden influx of rape kits, which is why these organizations have come together to crowd fund this effort. With just under $40,000 raised so far, organizers predict they will need at least $25 million to process all of the rape kits, investigate the cases and prosecute the guilty parties.
Recently, the campaign gained steam with the backing of sports journalist Jemele Hill. A native of Detroit and Michigan State graduate, Jemele Hill was involved in a fundraising competition with Wayne County Prosecutor and University of Michigan graduate Kym Worthy to coincide with the two schools’ college football match-up on October 17th. While Michigan State won the game, U of M won the donation competition pulling in $14,931 to MSU’s $11,181. Worthy told Detroit Free Press, “While it always feels good to trump MSU, it really is great that both schools could come together because the real winners will be those who get justice as a result of this effort.”
As with many major tragedies, most of the victims that comprise the 11,000 rape kits are women of color. Furthermore, backlogged rape kits is not a problem unique to Detroit. Just as sexual assault and rape culture plague every facet of society, keeping up with our victims and their cases has become a problem in and of itself, according to EndtheBacklog.org. If ever there was a time to come together for ourselves, this is that time. To quote the campaign’s CrowdRise page and Black poet/activist June Jordan,