SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The state has received millions of dollars to send rape kits to crime labs, but it doesn’t cover all of them.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams explains what can be done with the rest of them.
“We now have a comprehensive look statewide how many victims in Missouri have not been adequately served,” Williams said. “We got a grant to tackle about a quarter of these backlogged kits but where’s the funding going to come for the rest of them? I would encourage and hope that the state is going to find some funding for our state crime labs to do some of that. I’d say that’s the number one reason why there’s a back log in the first place is the crime labs have never been able to keep up with the number of kits that law enforcement has collected.”
Additionally, Lt. Culley Wilson with the Springfield Police Department sat down with Ozarks First to explain how long the process can be for a rape or sexual assault case.
“A person that’s been sexually assaulted, let’s say they’ve been raped, they call 911 and the officer comes to the house,” Wilson said. “The officer will ask the very basic questions of what happened and then it’s up to the victim. It’s always up to the victim.”
In this case, the officer would then take the victim to the hospital to receive a safe kit exam by a nurse.
“The next step, normally, in this case, we’re kind of keeping it simple, it’ll be assigned to a detective,” Wilson said. That could be as quick as the next day.
The detective will then ask the victim more questions about the assault and start an investigation by asking questions like, ‘what happened?’ and if the victim knew their assailant to help determine a suspect. Officers will continue investigating and if there’s probable cause then the police will find and arrest the suspect. SPD will then file and present charges to the prosecutor.
“Prosecutor will look at that, decide whether to file or not and then we wait for the court process,” Wilson said.
But, cases only make it this far if the victim wants to continue the process.
“From the beginning to the end, it could stretch over a year,” Wilson said. “On the investigative side, they can sometimes be very difficult, and on the victims’s side, they’re terribly difficult because we basically – we almost have to make a victim relive it twice. Sometimes the victim decides that they want to stop and I don’t blame them in many ways because it’s a difficult process. We never blame a victim that made a report and decided, ‘I can’t go through this any-can’t go forward anymore,’ because it’s just too hard. It’s very hard.”
Detectives say there are three things that may slow down the investigation:
The victim decides to stop the process
Lack of evidence
The time between when the assault occurred and when the victim reports it
“Sometimes, the time that goes by between the occurrence and when they report it, that can make a case more difficult,” Wilson said. “Lack of evidence that we have and sometimes, it’s a ‘he said she said’. We come across those. We don’t want to hold back. Those are difficult.”
Wilson says the victim is SPD’s number one priority.