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Oregon Receives $4M To Relieve Backlog Of Sexual Assault Kits

<p>The Oregon State Police provide these standard kits to hospitals to make it easier for nurses to collect forensic evidence from sexual assault victims.&nbsp;</p>

Amelia Templeton

The Oregon State Police provide these standard kits to hospitals to make it easier for nurses to collect forensic evidence from sexual assault victims. 

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in Oregon received nearly $4 million in grant funding Thursday to test DNA in sexual assault kits that were never sent to the state crime lab for analysis.

The grants were among more than $70 million awarded in 26 states through two separate programs run by the U.S. Bureau of Justice and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

"Together, the Manhattan grant and the Bureau of Justice Assistance grant can be used to comprehensively address the problem, not only to eliminate the backlog but also to look forward at how we can prevent creation of a new backlog" said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Don Rees.

Multnomah, Lane and Marion counties received $1,995,453 from the Manhattan DA to pay for the testing of more than 2,000 kits.

“It’s clear that’s the best practice, and we know when we look nationally that in some cases serial offenders have been identified, prosecuted, and put in prison," Rees said. "Justice has been served.”

Additionally, the City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau received a $2 million grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance. That funding will be used for testing and to fund detectives, prosecutors, and victim advocates to follow up on any new evidence the kits yield.

The statute of limitations on rape in Oregon is 12 years, or until the age of 30 for victims of child sexual assault. But rape cases based on DNA identification are generally exempt from the statute of limitations.

Rees said the counties are not planning to submit so-called anonymous or "Jane Doe" kits to be tested. By law, victims of sexual assault can have a kit taken at a hospital and can decide later whether to report a crime to the police and request to have the kit tested.

"There's a privacy concern there, and that's going to be respected," said Rees.

According to the Portland Police, victims of sexual assault who want to inquire about the status of their SAFE kit may email roseproject@portlandoregon.gov or call 503-823-0125 and provide the following information:

A recent audit conducted by the Oregon State Police found more than 5,000 kits statewide that had never been sent for testing. The untested kits came from victims as young as 3 and as old as 82. About 80 percent of the untested kits were collected by law enforcement within the past 12 years.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.