Cops, Courts and Fire Government

Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Backlog Crisis: ‘I Never Got Back Any Results From My Rape Kit’


Rape survivor Samantha Fullam speaks as Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Kristen Houser look on during a press conference on Thursday. Credit: PA Internet News Service

When Samantha Fullam was 15 years old, she was gangraped by four men.

“In a matter of moments, I had my control stolen from me, my life ripped apart, and my idea of normalcy completely uprooted,” the York County resident said.

She called her local police department following the rape and went to a York County hospital. While sitting on an overturned bucket, hospital staff performed a sexual assault evidence examination. They probed, swabbed, prodded, and photographed Fullam.

“Next month will mark 10 years since I have heard anything about my case. I never got back any results from my rape kit,” she said.

Fullam’s story isn’t unique.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that a sexual assault evidence kit backlog has caused numerous cases to fall to the wayside over the years in the Keystone State. The Associated Press reported last month that nationwide at least 155,000 sexual assault evidence kits have yet to be tested.

Fullam said there is a “rape kit crisis.”

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General released a report that found a massive backlog of sexual assault evidence kits were not tested due to “communication failures, bureaucratic breakdowns and resource shortages.” The problems were throughout the state.

On Thursday, DePasquale said he was proud to report that Pennsylvania has reduced the number of backlogged kits from 3,217 to 339 in three years, marking a roughly 90 percent reduction.

“I am pleased by the tremendous progress our crime labs have made, but we cannot rest until the backlog is eliminated and every victim has received justice,” DePasquale said.

Sexual assault evidence kits are not considered backlogged until they sit for a year.

Credit: PA Internet News Service

It costs $1,000 to $1,800 for sexual assault evidence kits to be tested at one of Pennsylvania’s three public crime labs.

Kristen Houser, a representatives of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said resources are a major problem for breaking through the sexual assault evidence kit backlog. She noted that as Philadelphia authorities focused on their backlog of sexual assault evidence kits, evidence testing for homicide cases was delayed.

Pennsylvania State Police and lawmakers are meeting in Harrisburg to expand crime lab services to process sexual assault evidence kits in a more timely manner.

Houser told reporters she believes there should be better tracking of sexual assault evidence kits, citing the ease of tracking online shopping orders.

DePasquale pointed to a tracking system that Idaho State Police developed that is being offered at no cost to other states. He said his staff is putting Pennsylvania officials in touch with those in Idaho.

“While this progress is welcome, there are still over 300 people who have been waiting for more than a year to find out what evidence, if any, their rape kits contain,” DePasquale stated. “These brave victims underwent a grueling physical exam not only for the sake of their own case, but also to potentially help protect others from being assaulted.”

DePasquale added that testing backlogged sexual assault evidence kits has led to cases being solved, including one in Pennsylvania.

It is LevittownNow.com policy to not publish the names of victims of sexual assault unless they have unless they are willing to be named. In this instance, Fullam agreed to have her name published.


About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001