Almost 6,500 untested sexual assault kits are sitting in evidence rooms across Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- As the nation debates the timeliness of sexual assault accusations at the highest level of government, the Washington state Attorney General's Office has found that almost 6,500 rape kits are sitting untested in evidence rooms across the state. 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office says the oldest untested rape kit -- a collection of evidence gathered by a sexual assault nurse examiner following a sexual assault -- dates back to 1982. Many others have been sitting for years.

The AG's office gathered information from 208 law enforcement agencies and found 6,460 kits that have not been submitted to crime labs.

“Sexual assault survivors deserve justice," Ferguson said. “Each sexual assault kit tells a story from a survivor that must be heard.”

The nearly 6,500 unsubmitted rape kits are separate from the backlog of rape kits that have been submitted, but have not yet been tested by the state Crime Lab.

Since 2015, more than 3,300 backlogged kits have been sent to the Crime Lab. Of those, 1,700 have been tested and another 1,100 are in the testing process. According to the AG's office, testing the backlogged kits has already led to arrests in cold cases, including a suspect who was charged with child rape more than 10 years after the crime.

Ferguson's office is reviewing the inventory data and working with the state Crime Lab on a plan for testing the unsubmitted kits, which could provide crucial DNA evidence in sexual assault investigations. 

The Crime Lab is outsourcing the kit-testing to a private lab, Ferguson said.