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Thousands of rape kits left on evidence shelves unopened

Reported by: John Treanor
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Updated: 10/31/2013 7:10 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Rape is a horrific crime that victimizes everyone from children to the elderly and eaving lasting scars.

Unfortunately, one out of every four women in Nevada is raped. It is a shockingly high number.

This is in part two of our special report, 'Rape kits n the shelf.'

Advocates still say these kits are vital and victims should get them. They are key in solving crimes and the district attorney's office has an excellent conviction rate and one of their biggest tools is the DNA kit or rape kit.

But perhaps just as shocking as the number of women attacked is the number of those kits that police have sitting in evidence.

“I don’t know the whole scenario behind my rape. I know it was like 10 or 11 people and I know a family member allowed it. When you grow up you get snapshots, you get visions, you can’t really put all the pieces together but you know when you’ve been victimized, there’s just no way of getting around it,” said a rape victim named Carmel.

Carmal is half of all women in Nevada. Like nearly 50 percent in Nevada, she has been sexually assaulted. Statistics say one fourth of all the women walking our streets have been raped.

Like many of those women, Carmal's road to justice may have started in a room were victims of assault go, get comforted, questioned, and tested.

On a shelf attached to the warm yellow and blue walls, designed to comfort the victims, behind a locked cabinet are small paper bags of marked evidence.

These are sexual assault forensic evidence or safe kits.

Some people might know them as rape kits and they can be the most important piece of evidence, the biggest tool law enforcement has in finding a rapist

What you might not know is how often these kits are tested and how many are sitting at Metro's lab.

After weeks of asking we were granted access to Ray Spencer, the sergeant in charge to talk about the difficult decisions his department makes.

Across the United States for every one hundred victims, less than 50 percent will submit to a rape kit and press charges. Of those, 80 percent of cases never make it to court and are dropped for a number of reasons.

That combination of dropped charges or prioritized cases has led to a backlog of untested rape kits across the country.

News 3 wanted to know how many were sitting here in clark county
and after months of digging we have a soft number.

"I dont know the specific number I can tell you i can tell you thats close to accurate about 4,000 kits that are in evidence," Spencer said.

This is a conservative estimate and that is in Las Vegas Metropolitan police's evidence alone.

Advocates at the Rape Crisis Center urge every victim to get a kit. It is still vitally important an numbers like these have gotten the attention of Washington, D.C.

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