KBI tests more than 2,000 backlogged sexual assault kits

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has released the findings of a five-year investigation into unsubmitted sexual assault kits.

The results of the investigation were revealed today along with a new protocol for Kansas law enforcement and an awareness campaign.

In 2014, the KBI collected 2,200 unsubmitted, untested, backlogged sexual assault kits from across the state.

In 2015, Kansas was one of the first 20 states in the U.S. to receive a National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant. This grant allowed the KBI to send all backlogged kits to one of two labs in the state to be tested.

Kansas is one of only two states that has been able to complete all testing in the state, without a third-party lab.

Of the 2,200 kits that were inventoried, 2,074 were submitted for testing and 2,018 were designated for testing. According to the KBI, as of September 30, 2019, 1,595 kit tests have been completed.

The KBI said they anticipate testing of the remaining kits to be done by the end of the month.

The DNA information collected from the kits has led to 907 suspects with prior criminal history to be identified; 93 percent of those have committed other violent crimes. As a result of kit testing, some cases have moved on to be prosecuted or warrants have been released for suspects.

“We feel very strongly that in order for us to increase offender accountability and prevent other people from being victims of, what we’ve identified as, serial sexual offenders, we have to engage the public in this conversation,” said Katie Whisman, Executive Officer for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Whisman took the lead for the Kansas Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. She said that submitting the backlogged kits meant five times the normal amount of work for lab employees.

“We really didn’t want to impact current cases. So we made a commitment to keep the flow going on current cases as best as we could and only use overtime funding to address the kits from the backlog,” added Whisman.

The initiative also meant training 1,317 professionals on sexual assault trauma and protocol.

The city of Wichita alone submitted just under 1,100 untested kits, which is nearly half of the kits collected from the entire state.

Captain Jason Stephens of the Wichita Police Department was previously the Commander of the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes unit. He said, since the KBI collected their untested kits, the department has made a change in how they deal with sexual assault kits. The department now tests 100 percent of the kits.

“To date, we are up to date with all of the testing and we plan to maintain that in the future,” says Captain Stephens.

Moving forward, the KBI has put in place a protocol that sexual assault kits must be submitted to the lab for testing within 10 days.

The KBI has now introduced a statewide awareness campaign titled, “Yes, This Room”. According to the KBI, the goal of the campaign is to educate Kansans on sexual assault “facts, myths, and biases”.

“At the end of the day, the victim doesn’t care about the tools that are used by law enforcement, they care about the support and help and encouragement that they receive,” says Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Kathy Ray, Director of Advocacy and Education for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, explained that the questions surrounding sexual assault need to change.

“We don’t ask questions about the offender, we don’t say, ‘what causes someone to rape someone else? Who thinks it’s okay to violate someone in that way? Why does someone commit sexual assault?’,” said Ray. “Until we start asking those questions we’re not going to end sexual assault, we’re not going to end rape.”

The “Yes, This Room” campaign will include TV and digital messages. People can also visit www.YesThisRoom.com for more information.

“Normalizing sexual assault and rape in conversations helps validate people’s experiences that they’re not alone,” added Ray.

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