In Virginia, four major universities are under federal investigation for reported failures in handling women’s rape charges , and an estimated 7,000 rape kits sit on shelves in police stations and elsewhere, untested and forgotten . However, there is hope for the thousands of rape survivors who have been ignored and silenced.
The Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed legislation and funding in the 2014 session to conduct an inventory of the state’s backlog of rape kits and begin processing them — and begin restoring dignity to rape survivors. Although processing the untested kits is a major undertaking, the benefits could be enormous. Once the inventory is completed in July 2015, Virginia should create a sexual assault evidence advisory committee with women survivors of rape throughout the state. They are the ones who will lead us in changing the “culture of rape” that allows sexual assault to go unreported and unpunished.
Marjorie B. Signer, Arlington
The writer is the legislative vice president of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women.