When the state of Michigan closed the Detroit crime lab in 2008, more than 10,000 rape kits were discovered in the laboratory basement, none of which had been submitted for analysis. The rape kits date from 1993 to 2006, and it is estimated that there are still thousands more at large in Wayne County. This means that 10,000 Detroit-bred sexual assault victims submitted their bodies and their trust in the local government and have been waiting for up to eighteen years for medical-legal evidence regarding whether sexual contact occurred, the nature and conditions of the assault, and information that may lead to identifying the perpetrator.
Detroit representatives who attended the national Eliminating the Rape Kit Backlog roundtable in Washington DC in May 2010 believe that the local media has sufficiently informed the public about the so-called epidemic. Yet, since I became aware of the issue last May, I have come across only one other person who had prior knowledge of the problem.
At its very essence, this backlog is an issue of information–evidence and knowledge. It begs many questions regarding politics at a local, state and national level, women’s health and safety, how government funds are and should be delegated, the effectiveness of rape kits as a means to justice for victims of sexual assault, and so on. In my own research I have not found much consensus between the available resources. As a public we are uninformed and misinformed, and those responsible for informing us (governmental bodies, journalists) are able to slack because as a public, we are unaware. Awareness is a necessary precondition for action. Knowledge is the critical factor that connects the two.
The RAPE/DETROIT Project
Beginning today–Friday, November 12–small donation repositories will be placed at The Burton Theatre as an effort to bring awareness to the rape kit backlog in Detroit. Throughout the rest of November, you can contribute money to help purchase “Rape Detroit” by Nate Czarling, whose artwork is currently on exhibit at The Burton. The t-shirt is priced at $100. Once the asking price is met and the artist is paid, any additional donations will be used to further spread awareness to Detroit’s public and victims. I will wear the t-shirt every day from December 1 to December 31.
The RAPE/DETROIT Project is my effort to bring attention to a cause I have been concerned and frustrated with for some time. It is my hope that by bringing attention to the rape kit backlog, discussions will be sparked and relationships will be forged so that we as a community can move together toward knowledge and action.
“Rape Detroit” will continue to exhibit and donations will continue to be accepted throughout the month of November during The Burton Theatre’s operating hours. There are 36 showtimes in these next few weeks. I strongly believe that this is a community effort–donating even the change in your pocket acknowledges the political strength of Detroit’s creative class.
A few screenings I would like to highlight as relevent to the RAPE/DETROIT Project are as follows:
Paris is Burning: Free screening. 11/23 at 9pm
See you tonight.