DENVER (CBS4)– Lawmakers in both Washington and Colorado have passed new laws aimed at putting rapists behind bars. The laws speed up the processing of evidence collected in rapes.
Thousands of rape kits remain on shelves, untouched, waiting for analysis.
Kelly Binder remembers her experience quite vividly — it was a warm July night in downtown Denver when she was attacked.
“He violently raped me,” said Binder.
She said she went to a bar with an old friend who was visiting from out of town. That’s where she said a stranger spiked her drink, took her to a hotel and raped her.
“I had over 20 bruises on my body, vaginal tearing, vaginal bruising,” said Binder.
She spent three hours at a hospital where evidence was collected as part of a rape kit. She assumed that kit would be submitted for testing and the DNA uploaded to a database.
“It was never, it was never submitted,” said Binder.
Unfortunately this situation isn’t unusual.
“We started to hear the story over and over again and we discovered there’s a backlog of 400,000 rape kits in the country,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat representing Colorado in the U.S. Congress.
Bennet said federal money earmarked for analyzing rape kits was being used for other things. He introduced legislation to stop that and ordered an audit.
“To identify the hidden backlog, these are rape kits we don’t even know exist sitting on a back shelf someplace,” said Bennet.
At the same time Bennet was making strides on the federal level, state lawmakers in Colorado were tackling a similar issue.
Rep. Frank McNulty, a Republican representing Highlands Ranch, introduced a bill that put $7 million toward processing the kits. The bill also required the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to submit a plan to prevent future backlogs.
“The fact we’re working on this in Colorado and our congressional delegation is working on it in DC shows that this is an important issue and we need to make sure we are doing everything to assure justice for victims of sex assault and put rapists behind bars,” said McNulty.
“I’ve fought so hard for this,” said Binder.
Binder pushed for both pieces of legislation. It’s been three years since her rape kit was collected. Now she is confident it will finally be analyzed.
“Not just for my sake but for others out there because I know he will do this again,” said Binder.
Officials with the CBI said they have a four-month backlog right now. That doesn’t include the thousands of kits that are sitting in police departments across Colorado.