With PA Rape Kits Backlogged, Many Urge More Has To Be Done

EAST STROUDSBURG UNIVERSITY -- While some students played Frisbee and walked to and from classes Wednesday evening, others gathered in a dark auditorium on campus to watch an award-winning documentary about sexual assault on campuses, called “The Hunting Ground.”

"It's a really, really eye-opening documentary and it also highlights how oftentimes schools are actually deliberately covering up cases of sexual violence,” said Sofie Karasek, Director of Education and Co-Founder of End Rape on Campus.

Karasek was featured in the documentary and spoke to students at ESU. She was sexually assaulted when she was a student at the University of California Berkley.

"He was found responsible but basically, there were no consequences for it, and now he goes to Harvard Law School and wants to be a politician,” she said about her attacker.

At the same time, Pennsylvania state leaders are talking about the embarrassing backlog of untested rape kits. An audit revealed more than 1,800 kits have gone untested for a year or more.

"Here in the northeast, three police departments reported a total of nine backlogged kits. These departments are Hazleton police, which reported seven kits; Scranton police, one kit; and PSP Dunmore, which reported one kit. All nine of those are potential rapists that need to be brought to justice,” said state auditor general Eugene DePasquale.

Karasek calls the backlog unacceptable.

"There are 400,000 untested rape kits across the United States today and a big portion of those are sitting there and could potentially be used to actually prosecute someone for this crime,” she said.

Others agree.

"Knowing that there's a huge backlog? That's ridiculous,” said ESU student Sterling Francois.

Officials at East Stroudsburg University say they are working with Monroe County investigators and prosecutors, as well as local police and hospitals. They hope to do a better job dealing with cases of rape and sexual assault. They think state officials should do the same.

"We are doing it on a small level here. I think we're capable of doing it on the state level as well,” said Dr. Doreen Tobin of East Stroudsburg University, the vice president of student affairs and Title IX coordinator.

The state audit found that the delays in rape kit testing are due to poor communication between law enforcement and state agencies and a lack of resources to do the testing.

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