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Thousands of rape kits remain untested nationwide; rape survivor - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Thousands of rape kits remain untested nationwide; rape survivor pushes to end the backlog

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LAKE CHARLES, La. -

An Acadiana woman is sharing her story in the hopes of ending a national backlog of rape kit tests.

According to the White House, around 400,000 rape kits across the United States have gone untested because of a lack of funding.The Bureau for Justice Assistance created grants to help get those kits tested.

In October President Obama signed the sexual assault survivors' rights act into law. It gives rape victims more access to and control over their rape kits. “Nothing I could ever do to him that could give me back what he took from me,” rape survivor Wendy Guidry said while she read her victims statement.

For 3 years, Guidry has kept this victim's statement. It’s a painful reminder of her past. In 1992, the then-20-year-old Guidry was raped by a man who hid inside of her car.

Guidry had went out to eat that night with a group of friends. While inside, the man broke into Guidry's Honda Civic and was hiding in the rear of the two-door hatchback under a reclined backseat. 

He wore a mask and demanded Guidry to drive to a location, just outside of Lake Charles.

“He immediately grabbed me and put the knife to my throat,” Guidry said. “I just remembered hearing him tell me not to panic. I was raped and the case was never solved.”

After the man fled, a shocked Guidry immediately went to the hospital for a rape kit and called police. However, the chances of her getting justice were slim.  

“I knew back then that it was going to be like picking a needle out of a haystack unless he did it again,” Guidry said. “Until they had a suspect the kit was never going to be ran.”

Guidry's kit sat on a shelf, untested for 20 years until her attacker was arrested for another rape.

DNA evidence from Guidry's rape kit linked Darwin Hutchinson to the crime. He's now serving a life sentence in Angola.

“You spend 20 years trying to forget about something and put something in this box,” Guidry said about the rape kit. “You try to move on with your life and not live life in fear. I had given up hope that the case would ever be solved. I just tried to move on in my life and forget.”  

Guidry is one of thousands of women in the United States whose rape kit has gone untested.

Last year 175 rape kits in Louisiana went untested. According to Louisiana State Police Crime lab in 2015 up to 1300 kits were untested in the state.

The problem? Sometimes law enforcement agencies don't give the kits to crime labs for testing. Reasons vary and could be because the victim doesn't press charges, the victim changes story or police prove the act was consensual.

“If a law enforcement agency doesn't bring a kit here then we can't work it,” Carolyn Booker of the Acadiana Crime Lab said.

The lab tests kits from several agencies in Acadiana.  Hundreds of samples are tested at the Acadiana crime lab. It's a process that takes weeks to complete.

However, older kits like Guidry's could not be tested without a suspect.

“We only did A, B, O typing and some typing of enzymes that might be present in body fluids” Booker said.

“Now we have CODIS system.” CODIS stands for Combined DNA Index System. It’s a nationwide database of offenders to help match DNA evidence to offenders.

“We can look through each profile cases where this is no suspect and we can search them and see a match to a suspect,” Booker said. “Before DNA if you didn't have a suspect to compare too then there was no way of finding that person.”

While technology has advanced, the nationwide backlog continues because of a lack of funding for law enforcement.

It’s a backlog Guidry hopes will end, so other rape victims can find peace and justice.

“I found peace,” Guidry said. To encourage other rape survivors she added,  “Don't give up hope that your case will be solved.” 

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