Report: Washington cleared one-third of its untested rape kits, but large backlog remains

Despite the progress made processing sexual assault kits, Washington's large backlog remains, according to a report from the state auditor.

The State Auditor's Office (SAO) found the state has greatly improved tracking and processing of some 9,000 untested sexual assault kits, but the backlog still sits at around 6,000.

According to their findings, other states have cleared their backlogs, but Washington started their own reforms later—which were then slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"COVID significantly slowed down testing processes for these kits," said Washington State Auditor Olha Bilobran. "All these labs, both type labs and private labs, they all have to fight for the same PPE. They have limits on how many people can access the lab."

"The Washington State Patrol has taken the right steps, but eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault kits will take more time and it is still absolutely necessary," said State Auditor Pat McCarthy. "We encourage the Patrol to continue its work, and we will return to this important subject again in the future."

WSP launched an online kit-tracking system in 2018, which the SAO found falls in line with recommended practices for working through the backlog. The system aims to help sexual assault survivors track their kits as they move from collection to analysis, then to storage and eventual destruction.

The State Legislature implemented a package of reforms in 2019, including deadlines for testing older kits, and requiring the SAO to review the tracking system in 2022.

Ending the backlog: How Washington state is working through 10,000 untested sexual assault kits

The problems first surfaced publicly in 2014 when a non-profit founded by Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay began sending public disclosure requests to police agencies across the country.

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While the backlog is still large, SAO found the reforms are working and makes no recommendations. WSP will continue testing and maintaining the online tracking system.

For more information on WSP's online tracking system and sexual assault kits, visit the State Auditor's Office website.