By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A backlog of untested rape kits that sat on shelves for years will now be tested.

The state was awarded a $2 million grant to start the process.

Rape kits at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office will go first, as that agency has the largest number of untested kits in Minnesota.

Each rape kit represents a victim who endured an invasive sexual assault exam. There are more than 3,000 untested kits in Minnesota. A grant from the federal Office of Justice Programs will begin to shrink that number.

“I think this is an important step to holding more perpetrators accountable but also helping survivors feel validated in their experiences and help them find healing,” sexual assault survivor and advocate Sarah Super said.

Super knows what can happen when a kit is tested. In her case, it resulted in a conviction. She wants other survivors to feel the system recognizes them, too.

“I appreciate there’s an acknowledgement that our understanding of this issue has changed and I think taking accountability, hearing someone say we really didn’t do right the first time and now we’re committed to doing it differently. I think that matters,” Super said.

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault has been at the forefront of the issue.

“We have succeeded in making the message heard, that victims survivors need to be addressed, need to be responded to in a proper manner including the testing of the kits they report, to the assaults they report,” executive director Teri McLaughlin said.

MNCASA, along with the other partners in the grant, will determine the best way forward. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office property room holds 495 untested kits, the most in the state. The testing will start there.

“Those cold cases that we all talk about they get to see some process toward justice, whatever their justice may be. They can see we’re actually responding to them,” McLaughlin said.

The grant the state received is $800,000 short of what they requested. The agencies are determining how to condense their plan to fit what they can afford to do.

“When these crimes are taken seriously I think it helps rebuild our sense of trust in the world, our sense of safety. It’s so much more healing and so much more important than I think people recognize,” Super said.

The testing won’t happen overnight. Staff need to be hired and trained first. The grant recipients hope to have their plan approved by the New Year. They estimate it would take double the amount to test all the untested kits in the state.

Jennifer Mayerle

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