TULSA, Okla. — As the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation prepares to provide an update tomorrow on the status of testing for sexual assault kits, new state reforms have been implemented to help with the crisis.
Law enforcement agencies are playing catch up on thousands of untested rape kits. Some of them are linked to crimes committed in the 90s.
More resources are needed to get the work done.
Kassie McClung, a reporter with The Frontier, has followed Oklahoma’s efforts in implementing rape kit reform since 2017.
“The state has been trying to make reforms over the past few years with how it handles reports of sexual assault,” McClung said.
There is still a lot of work ahead.
The Tulsa Police Department counted their stock of untested rape kits in 2017. The total was at 3,000.
“So far, we have tested 504 of those,” Lt. Darin Ehrenrich said.
And of those, 31 DNA profiles were generated, but Ehrenrich says many victims do not want their case reopened.
“The emotional impact and the trauma that’s inflicted on these victims is greater than any crime that I've ever seen in my 13 years as a police officer.”
Danielle Tudor experienced that trauma at 17.
“As I was sitting there and watching TV, I saw this doorknob twisting. Everything seems to be going so fast but also in slow motion,” Tudor recounted.
She was raped and hid that part of her life for a while until she met the need for reform. Tudor is a member of Oklahoma’s sexual assault kit initiative task force.
“Out of all the pillars of rape kit reform, we only have a couple left to go,” said Tudor.
She believes the key to a major improvement in Oklahoma is twofold: an annual audit and a permanent funding source.
“If we can accomplish those two, then we will have accomplished full rape kit reform,” Tudor said.
The Oklahoma City and Tulsa police departments have their own labs for rape kit testing.
Ehrenrich said Tulsa usually sends about 50 kits a month for testing. The May ransomware attack has slowed that process. TPD is now behind in testing by 100 kits, Ehrenrich said, because they do not have access to certain online systems.
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