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Victims of untested rape kits include the wrongfully accused

Rape kits are obviously on the minds of many government officials, police departments, advocacy organizations and other groups these days, as noted in a recent media article.

Specifically, the USA TODAY points out in the wake of an internal newspaper investigation that rape kits sitting in evidence rooms and elsewhere across the country have been untested in high numbers of cases.

In fact, notes the paper, the number of untested kits "likely reaches well into the hundreds of thousands across the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies."

It is undoubtedly the case that most people lamenting the slow pace of testing have the view that not getting the job done with dispatch is a material disservice to alleged victims in sex crimes cases.

And that is understandable, of course. "It is unacceptable," said the governor of one state recently, "[that] women await justice while rape kits gather dust."

At the same time, though, the debate surrounding untested rape kits must duly reference out of fairness another group of people who have a deeply vested interest in seeing crime-related evidence tested and evaluated with dispatch.

That demographic is a group that certainly warrants the same degree of compassion and sympathy as any victim of a sex crime, namely, individuals who have been falsely targeted and/or otherwise wrongly accused of committing rape or another violent sex-related act.

It is impossible to say how many such people are currently facing the almost unthinkable challenge inherent in squaring off against the mighty resources of government officials in a drama that could send them to prison for years or even a lifetime. Additionally, of course, it is hard to say how many people have already been convicted and incarcerated for a sex offense. Much empirical evidence clearly demonstrates, though, that false convictions in sex crime cases are far from being singular occurrences.

Evidence forthcoming from a tested rape kit could exonerate innocent persons, just as it could promote the interests of a crime victim in select cases.

There is clearly some momentum for systematically dealing with untested kits in a uniformly rational way across the country and for reducing the large stockpile of unevaluated evidence.

As the above media source notes, testing kits can both "bolster prosecutions and in some cases exonerate the wrongly accused."

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