Every day, over 400 Michiganders become victims of sexual assault. In 2012, there were over 3,400 sexual assault crimes reported in Michigan. Of those, 97 percent of the victims were women. Thousands of the rape kits collected from those crimes sit unprocessed while the perpetrators remain free to strike again — and they often do.
In spite of these startling statistics, our legislature has chosen to prioritize needlessly shaming the poor over carrying out justice for thousands of rape victims across the state.
Last week, the Michigan Legislature voted to launch a suspicion-based welfare drug testing pilot program. They chose to ignore the fact that drug testing cash assistance recipients in other states has proven costly and yielded very few positive results. In fact, many states that enacted such laws actually lost more money than what would have been paid out in benefits to people who failed.
Yesterday, we made the rounds at the Capitol Building and legislative offices to hand out urine sample cups to Senators who voted in favor of drug testing cash assistance recipients. If we’re going to test poor people, we should be drug testing every lawmaker; legislative staffer and corporate welfare recipient who also receive tax dollars.
While our legislature continues to target the state’s poorest citizens, thousands of rape kits sit unprocessed in storage. Over 11,000 sexual assault kits, dating back as far as the 1980s, were found abandoned in a Detroit Police storage facility in 2009.
So far, 1,600 rape kits have been processed, resulting in identification of about 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists. Some perpetrators committed similar crimes in 23 other states before they were caught.
Victims of rape who are brave enough to come forward deserve the security of knowing that law enforcement officials will do everything they can to catch the person who did it.
If our legislature truly wants to show that they have the right priorities for the residents of Michigan, they will ensure that adequate funding is allocated to processing backlogged rape tests, making sure that rape tests don’t become backlogged at all, and carrying out justice for victims. They won’t waste time and taxpayer money with doomed-to-fail programs whose only objective is to shame those with the least among us.