The state of Virginia has eliminated its backlog of rape kits, some of which went untested for decades, according to its attorney general.
Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday that the state's $3.4 million project to eliminate its backlog of 2,665 untested kits has been completed. Virginia becomes the seventh state to clear its rape kit backlog, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that runs the End the Backlog campaign.
"Eliminating this backlog has been a long time coming, and it has taken a lot of work, but it means a wrong has been righted, that justice is closer for more survivors, and that Virginia is a safer place," Herring said in a statement.
Several states across the country have had thousands of rape kits, also known as physical evidence recovery kits (PERKS), sit on shelves in police offices due to a lack of funding and long wait times at labs. The PERKS are crucial for the investigation of rape cases and the arrest of perpetrators, say advocates.
Herring said some of the PERKS in Virginia were left untested for decades.
"For many survivors, the fact that their kit was never tested denied them a sense of security and justice or even closure that is critical for healing from such a traumatic experience," he said in a statement.
Herring's office said it worked with local law enforcement and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to test the kits. As a result, 851 DNA profiles were uploaded into CODIS, the national Combined DNA Index System; 354 results were sent to investigators for further examination; and one kit led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with a 2012 rape case.
In addition to testing the backlogged PERKS, Virginia has taken several steps to ensure the kits are analyzed faster and more efficiently. The state has created a PERK tracking system that helps labs, law enforcement agencies and other involved parties see the status of a kit in real time.
As of July 1, 2020, all agencies handling kits are required to update the status of each kit, according to Herring's office.
"This work has helped to ensure that our responses are as trauma-informed as possible -- increasing the likelihood that survivors will report violence and making it easier for survivors to make informed decisions regarding pathways towards their healing and justice," Kristi VanAudenhove, the executive director of the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance said in a statement.