“It keeps people off the street”: new rape kit funding thrills advocates

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FRANKFORT, Ky (WTVQ)- A big announcement from the Attorney General’s Office Monday.

Andy Beshear says he will transfer $30,000 to the State Police to fund testing of backlogged rape kits. Beshear says the money comes from the interest made off a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical settlement with Johnson & Johnson.

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Testing rape kits is expensive in terms of time and money. Beshear says $30,000 will pay to test just about 50 kits out of a more than 3,000 kit backlog, but two women involved with ending the backlog say the money is essential.

“This is basically a place that is filled with resources,” Michelle Kuiper says as she describes a website she has been working on.

Resources are a focus of Kuiper’s internship with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, better known as KASAP. This work is personal for Kuiper. She says she was raped in 1994 as a student at the University of Louisville.

“He was actually called the U of L rapist. That’s what they called him on his file,” Kuiper said.

Rape kits revealed he later raped two other women. He was convicted, a rarity in rape cases. Kuiper’s boss, Eileen Recktenwald, says only 3% of reported rapes in Kentucky are prosecuted.

“When you don’t get prosecutions… you know, as a victim agency, we see prosecution of sexual assault as prevention. It keeps people off the street,” Recktenwald said.

That is one reason both women were thrilled to hear the Attorney General will transfer $30,000 dollars to the State Crime Lab, enough to test about 50 kits.

“These cases that are in the backlog that means that as long as they’ve been not tested that means that person who has committed this crime has been walking around feeling like they got away with something,” Recktenwald said.

She says a new law passed last year will help prevent such a large backlog from happening again, but, in the short term, this money from the Attorney General’s Office will help bring justice for more people like Michelle.

“We need to remember that these kits are evidence, they are the crime scene, they are the gun, and we have to test them,” Kuiper said.

The Attorney General’s Office says this is the first payment to KSP from the interest on the Johnson & Johnson settlement money. Beshear says he expects to make more payments in the future.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!