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"11,000 To Zero" campaign will reach out to survivors of Detroit's rape kit backlog

Jake Neher
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy with former Michigan Attorney General Bill Scheutte. Worthy has been working on testing and prosecuting cases from Detroit's rape kit backlog for years.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office is launching an effort to reach out to sexual assault survivors whose cases remain part of Detroit’s notorious rape kit backlog, which stretches back years or even decades.

A warehouse full of more than 11,000 untested rape kits were found abandoned in 2009. All of those kits have now been tested. But there are still thousands of cases still to prosecute.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the “11,000 To Zero" campaign is about reaching out to survivors who haven’t contacted them, or who can’t be found.

“We want to be able to say we have done everything that we possibly can to let survivors know that we care about them,” Worthy said. “Their case still matters, even after all this time, and we would like them to come forward if they want to.”

Worthy said the campaign includes a website, MyRapeKit.com, and a hotline where survivors can contact the prosecutor's office and get information on the status of their case. She said all information shared there will be kept confidential.

Worthy said her office will also launch a major advertising campaign promoting the project. It will include billboards, bus ads, and radio spots. “We will also be going in to beauty shops and nail salons and barbershops,” she said. “Any place where we think our survivors may be, we are going in and we're going to give information to all of those venues.”

In addition to rape kit testing results and case information, survivors will receive information for counseling services through Wayne County’s community partner, Avalon Healing Center, Worthy’s office said in a release. It added that “Avalon Healing Center is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that offers free comprehensive medical services, traditional counseling, legal advocacy services, and alternative healing therapies for sexual assault survivors.”

Worthy said the campaign is being paid for by private donations to Wayne County’s Sexual Assault Kit Taskforce Initiative.

Since the rape kits were discovered in 2009, Worthy’s office says it has investigated and closed more than 4,800 of these cases, resulting in 239 convictions and 841 suspected serial offenders identified.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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