When Kym L. Worthy, the head of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, found out that there were untested rape kits in a Detroit Police Department storage room, she had to do something.
According to The New York Times, 11,341 kits sat in the room for more than 30 years, which meant thousands of cases went unheard and even more rapists went free. Worthy wanted to get them tested, but there was a problem. Having them all tested would cost about $17 million at $1,500 a kit.
Given that most rapists walk free — about 97 for every 100 receive no punishment — the rape kits are vital to a prosecution. They can contain DNA evidence of penetration or assault. But as Worthy found out, rape kit backlogs are a serious issue. So she took matters into her own hands.
Per the Times, Worthy reached out to everyone she knew and gained the support of Joanna Cline, the chief marketing officer of wall decal company Fathead, and Peg Tallet, chief community engagement officer of the Michigan Women's Foundation who works for Enough SAID, a sexual assault prevention and outreach organization.
After raising grant money to test 2,000 kits, the State of Michigan donated $4 million to cover the costs of 8,000 more. Cline sent more than 200 additional emails to businesses, which really helped the issue gain momentum, and raised $1.3 million from private donors so far — including a $25,000 donation from Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
"The business community has rallied around us, particularly businesswomen who are saying this can't happen here if we're going to make this the city we're all working to make it," Tallet told the Times.
According to End The Backlog, the tested kits have yielded 2,478 DNA matches and identified 487 potential serial rapists so far.
"Testing is the first step in bringing justice to long neglected victims," Worthy said. "The next important steps are investigation and prosecution. People should be aware that these kits contain valuable evidence that can assist law enforcement in preventing future rapes, robberies, home invasions and even homicides."
The women plan to raise at least $657,090 by the end of 2016.
For more, check out The New York Times.