At a press conference held at the Atheneum Suite Hotel in Detroit, leadership from the Michigan Women’s Foundation (MWF), Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office (WCPO) and the Detroit Crime Commission (DCC), supported by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, unveiled Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit), a new independent collaboration for justice.
In 2009, more than 11,000 unopened, untested rape kits were discovered in a Detroit Police Department storage unit. The kits represented thousands of unprosecuted sexual assault cases, and potentially thousands of sex offenders still on the streets. Due to economic constraints in Detroit and Wayne County, limited funding has been available to date to address the backlog.
From this need, Enough SAID was created.
The goal of Enough SAID is to advocate for additional public monies and raise private sector funding, the first known effort of its kind in the country, from major corporations, local businesses, families and individuals alike, to finish testing the remaining kits, investigate resulting cases and prosecute the rapists.
Right now, www.EnoughSaidDetroit.org and www.miwf.org/EnoughSaid are accepting donations, as well as providing ideas and encouragement for individual and corporate fundraising.
Testing the kits will indentify unknown assailants, confirm current locations of known suspects, connect suspects to other crimes and exonerate the innocent. In short, testing all of the kits is the first step in guaranteeing justice for thousands of victims and securing a safer community.
From an initial random sample of just 2,000 kits that underwent testing, the WCPO identified 188 serial rapists and has already obtained 15 convictions.
“We know that rapists attack an average of 11 times and are associated with a myriad of other criminal offenses,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “Having the resources to take these criminals off the street, and stop them from committing further violent crimes, will ensure a safer Detroit for all.”
It is important to note, however, that this is not an issue unique to Detroit or Wayne County, but rather a problem occurring across the country, with more than 400,000 untested kits identified to date nationwide.
The Enough SAID partnership, along with an impressive group of initial funders, represents one of country’s first formal efforts to right this wrong. Additionally, Enough SAID is currently working on a pilot program in partnership with UPS to design and implement a better system for tracking kits moving forward.
“The Enough SAID partnership and the support it has already received to date is a critical statement that crimes against women will not be brushed aside or diminished in any way,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women’s Foundation.
Based on its 29-year history of leading important initiatives on behalf of the state’s women and girls, MWF was approached by the private foundation community to assume leadership for this critical fundraising campaign. The foundations have funded an infrastructure that will allow all money raised for Enough SAID to directly support the testing, investigation and prosecution of cases.
Specifically, the MWF will grant Enough SAID dollars to a fiduciary, the Detroit Crime Commission, that will facilitate the establishment of a Cold Case Unit with adequate resources to handle the volume of investigations and resulting prosecution, including highly-trained law enforcement and legal staffs, as well as the latest technological tools. Already the DCC has successfully negotiated a reduction in the forensic labs’ testing costs from $1,500 to $490 per kit.
“The Detroit Crime Commission team looks forward to continuing to aid Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy in the effort to process and test backlogged rape kits, and preventing future sexual assaults in Wayne County by identifying and prosecuting past perpetrators,” said Andrew Arena, executive director of the DCC.
Until the full backlog of rape kits is tested and the results analyzed, it is impossible to estimate the full cost of the investigations and prosecution. The Enough SAID campaign has set a goal to raise $10 million private sector dollars, which will help to leverage additional local, state and federal support, and make a substantive contribution to solving this issue.
The economic and social implications of a safer Detroit align with all of the exciting developments taking place in the city and the region.
To date, individuals and business donors from 45 states and eight countries have contributed close to $750,000, with gifts ranging from $500,000 to $5. Initial support has come from the Joyful Heart Foundation, MGM Grand Detroit Casino, MotorCity Casino, the National Institute of Justice, the Nicholson Family, Office on Violence Against Women, Quicken Loans, The Skillman Foundation, the State of Michigan, Gretchen Valade, the U.S. Department of Justice and nearly 1,000 individuals.
Moving forward, to ensure something like this never happens again in Michigan, Governor Snyder this summer signed HB 5445, enacting legislation that mandates faster and more organized sexual assault kit testing.