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Ingham County investigates dated, untested rape kits

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 05:14:58-04

LANSING, Mich. — There are 123 untested rape kits in Ingham County dating back to 1999 that will now be investigated.

This is part of a statewide effort to crack down on sexual assault.

Those untested kits have now been tested and combined with other evidence.

The Ingham County Sheriff’s office is working with local police departments and the Michigan Attorney General and are hoping that these kits will lead to new convictions of sexual predators.

“Anxiety, eating disorders, stress, job loss and difficulty sleeping, nightmares.”

Those are just some of the trauma responses victim advocate Rachel Swedberg says victims of sexual assault go through when having to be examined by a nurse right after a rape.

Photos are taken and they can’t shower so that samples of DNA left behind by their attacker can be taken.

“The process, in general, is very long and it takes time for the kits to be tested,” said Swedburg. “It takes time, for if the kits are tested, to be picked up and then possibly charges brought.”

The responses from the charges can be triggering, she says, when faced with what happened to them again.

“Especially if that person, that survivor, hasn’t thought about it in years or has been trying to put it behind them and all of the sudden they have this come back into their lives. They may have had the past few years to heal and adjust and just gotten used to their new normal,” said Swedburg.

That is the balance that Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth says law enforcement is dealing with while investigating rape kits dating from 1999 to 2015 that were left untested.

“Of course we would have to get their buy-in if they would want to proceed with the case and we’ve had some success with contacting victims from several years ago that want to proceed and continue with getting justice in their case,” said Wriggelsworth .

The Sheriff’s Office started testing and investigating these untested rape kits in 2018. The state legislature approved $4 million dollars to be used for this purpose.

Besides Ingham, the money is also being used by Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. He says it’s a part of a statewide effort and change in perspective.

“What we know now is often times rapists have several victims and just because they knew their victim in one case or the victim decided to not proceed with their case, down the road we know now that we need to test every one of those cases because there could be other victims out there. And these kits could lead to evidence needed to continue with the prosecution,” said Wriggelsworth .

Swedburg says getting justice for more victims is so important when done the right way, especially with all of the trauma the community has experienced in the past few years.

“This could be a good thing, but it can also be disorienting, so again, having an advocate there with them through that process, to walk with them alongside them, can be very beneficial in easing that news,” said Swedburg.

Current Michigan law requires that every rape kit collect be tested and analyzed.

Ingham County tells FOx 47, one man has already been charged from a 2014 case since these kits have been investigated.

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