Our world is heavily inundated with things of the less than savory variety, and we do know this is a heavy topic that’s not easy to digest… But it’s certainly an issue that could use a solution in due course.
Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits in the United States alone? Aside from the horrible fact that there’s a staggering amount of kits to begin with, all these untested kits that sit in evidence and go unnoticed or ignored for years have a name. They are referred to as the backlog. There are actually two different backlogs: the first exist in police evidence storage facilities, where kits are booked into evidence, yet haven’t been requested for a DNA analysis. The second backlog is where they sit in a crime lab waiting to be tested.
Any of these kits that sit in these facilities and go untested for 30 days after first being entered, end up in this backlog. Unfortunately, after they’ve been on the backlog and sit in storage for so long, some get destroyed due to a lack of space. It’s become such a problem that the federal government created a $41 million grant program to address the issue. This initiative now provides local communities the resources to test backlogged kits in their police storage facilities, creates multi-disciplinary teams to investigate and prosecute cases connected to the backlog, and addresses the need for victim notification and re-engagement with the criminal justice system.
But aside from the movement of money to advance these kits along in the testing phases, there’s the other problem of the backlog: human avoidance or simply “forgetting about the problem.” While we would like to think that we don’t sweep these cases under the rug, these untested rape kits sitting in some storage or lab prove otherwise.
It may be easier to ignore for some because… who truly wants to be the one to dredge up a person’s trauma or elicit horrific memories? Handling these cases is no small or easy task, and finding justice is often done at a great, emotional cost. Court cases can be lengthy and may force a victim to see or be around their attacker more than they can mentally and emotionally handle. Victims are often subjected to brutal and intrusive questioning, and an opposing attorney may even manipulate the victim’s testimony. But to even get to those stages, it first starts with testing these rape kits.
This issue is so problematic, that a program of the national non-profit organization, Joyful Heart Foundation, called ENDTHEBACKLOG was created. Its mission is to simply, end the backlog. Aside from all the other factors that can be enacted to diminish this chaos, we can at least start on a ground level that redacts human error. And this can be done utilizing Ethereum’s blockchain and smart contract technology.
Each rape kit number or code could be inputted onto the blockchain and if it has not been tested in the 30 day time, a notification would automatically be sent to all pertinent parties. There should be an incentive similar to an Ether mining reward that would occur when that kit becomes tested. Since the blockchain is transparent, there will be more visibility with the number of kits that are still untested, and which ones are in the testing phase. That way these kits are easily seen on a computer screen as opposed to locked away, “out of sight, and out of mind” in an evidence room or crime lab. A person could go online to the blockchain backlog, and by seeing each kit represented by the multiple strands of random numbers and letters, they may actually be able to visibly realize how dire the situation is. This transparency can foster a necessary change and alleviate a situation that’s only made worse due to avoidance. And while the blockchain certainly promotes transparency, the identity behind each kit is never shown to the public. Therefore the safety and anonymity of the victim is completely preserved.
When tested, DNA evidence contained inside these kits can be an incredibly powerful tool in solving and preventing crime. It can identify an unknown assailant and confirm the presence of a known suspect. It can affirm the survivor’s account of the attack, and discredit any claim of innocence from the suspect. Furthermore, it can connect a suspect to other crime scenes or open cases. And another important factor: It can exonerate innocent suspects.
Ethereum’s technology is emerging in such fundamental ways, that people are looking to it to simplify our lives, solve and reform financial necessities, and streamline legal issues. Shouldn’t it also be used to solve detrimental social issues that so fiercely need to be addressed? With technology constantly being used to advance our lives, we believe that we should put it to progressive use and reform other issues such as the rape kit backlog as well.