The Worthy Endeavor of Kym Worthy

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 6.11.04 PMKym Worthy is responsible for turning national attention to the lack of concern on the parts of police and our communities for crimes of rape. Her efforts have received attention in national publications and her successes are promoting discussion.

She is the first woman and first African American to be appointed prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit, the most violent city in the United States. Her office prosecutes 52% of all felonies in the state of Michigan. It has the tenth largest caseload in the country and yet its staff, due to serious cutbacks caused by the financial setbacks in Detroit, is one-quarter that of Los Angeles.

In spite of the limitations of her situation Kym Worthy has accomplished enough to earn numerous awards. Her tenacity and determination led her to successfully prosecute former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is currently in prison. She has many other achievements to her credit in this position. Among them:

–In 2007, after her persistence, the Wayne County Commission, for the first time, set aside funds for the protection of witnesses.

–She created the first Elder Abuse Unit in the county.

–She developed a “Change the Culture” program to support community policing in Detroit. The first public form to discuss the program drew 3,000 citizens and leaders from the city.

She has achieved national recognition, however, for response to a happenstance. In 2009 one of Kym Worthy’s assistants discovered more than 11,000 rape kits sitting in a warehouse, unprocessed. Herself a victim of rape, one she never reported, Worthy immediately sought funding to have the kits tested. She received a $1 million federal grant to test 153 kits. Although the process is costly, and slow, the results so far have been spectacular.

–Of the first 153 kits processed, there were DNA matches for 38 suspects, and 20 of those were identified as serial rapists

–Of the first 1,600 kits tested, two-thirds match a crime some place in the United States, “often a rape.”

–To date 3,230 rape kits have been tested. Of these 17% were found in the FBI data bank and 15% of those were serial rapists. Over 100 serial rapists have been identified as of last month.

There may be as many as 400,000 untested rape kits in this country. Congress is currently pressuring colleges and universities to improve their support systems for rape victims. While this effort is commendable, it focuses solely on those privileged young women who can pursue higher education. What might happen if they provided funding and training to test all the rape kits that have been ignored?

Yes, in some cases, the statue of limitations has expired, but as Kym Worthy has shown, many of the perpetrators have gone on to commit other, often sexual, crimes. Testing these kits would not only lead to punishment for the crimes against women. It would remove predators to women and promote their safety, not only in colleges and universities but also in inner city neighborhoods such as those in Detroit.

 

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