Wayne County commemorates 10th anniversary of rape kit initiative, "there have been 197 convictions"

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Ten years ago today, an official discovered thousands of untested rape kits in an abandoned police facility. 

On Wednesday, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office commemorated that discovery, and the programs put in place to fix it.

"Today, we're gathered here to commemorate something that never should've happened. Ever," said Kim Trent, a member of the African American 490 Group.

What "never should've happened" was the accumulation of thousands of untested rape kits in Detroit police building, where they were stored away on shelves and stuffed in garbage bags. A total of 11,341 rape kits were left to collect dust.

Upon discovery, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy created the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to turn back the tide against apathy toward rape.

"I didn't know anybody would even do this. Why anybody would take rape kits and throw them on a shelf and then let them pile up and pile up and pile up," Worthy said. "I didn't know people would do that. It's inhumane."

Testing of the kits began 400 at a time, with the help of dozens of agencies and organizations. Worthy said the approach has been "victim centered, trauma informed and offender focused."

"When we've met those forgotten women, they've said the same thing: 'when I found out that my kit was finally tested and my assailant was going to stand trial, I got my life back,'" said Peg Tallet of Michigan Women Forward.

So far, there have been 197 convictions.

The numbers don't stop there however. As of Aug. 9, the testing has also led to an identification of 824 suspected serial sexual offenders impacting investigations in 39 other states.

One survivor in attendance, Laquetta Travis, a 32-year-old who was raped in 2006 and again in 2008 embraced figures at the commemoration on Wednesday.

"On behalf of all of the 11,341 of us I would just like to say, thank you," she said. "I fought for every breath that I took from 2006 until the day I got that phone call in 2016."

Since Worthy started her rape kit initiative, she has shared her experiences and what she's learned with other cities and agencies across the country. 

"We will never let it happen again. Never," said Rochelle Riley, Detroit's director of Arts and Culture.