I Am Evidence exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Despite the power of DNA to solve and prevent crimes, these kits containing potentially crucial evidence languish untested in police evidence storage rooms. Behind each of these kits lies an individual’s unresolved sexual assault case. The film introduces viewers to several of these survivors, who still await justice, as well as the prosecutors, investigators, advocates and journalists fighting on their behalf.
Already an underreported crime, rape has one of the lowest arrest rates of all violent crimes in the U.S., hovering near a national average of 20 percent. Even lower are prosecution rates, which are close to 4 percent, and conviction rates, which are close to 2 percent.
DNA evidence contained in rape kits can identify a suspect, affirm a survivor’s account, exonerate the innocent, and identify serial offenders. Despite this, kits, and by extension, victims have been shelved for decades, in some cases while the perpetrators of violent sexual crimes remain free. Most jurisdictions do not track rape kits, most states do not require testing, and very few prohibit the destruction of rape evidence.
The film explores why the rape kit backlog exists and highlights the law enforcement officials who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-awaited justice in these cases.
In 2009, over 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy fought to have all the kits tested, a process that is now nearly complete. Through her work, over 780 suspected serial rapists have been identified, and there have been 50 convictions based on the DNA results from the previously untested kits.
In Ohio, former Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty created a task force that undertook the testing of 5,000 backlogged kits, leading to the identification of more than 410 suspected serial rapists, who have been linked to more than 1,127 victims.
Additionally, I Am Evidence follows survivors’ experiences as they trace the fates of their kits and re-engage in the criminal justice process, which shows the disturbing pattern of how the system has historically treated sexual assault victims.
Testing every rape kit sends a clear and powerful message to survivors that they matter — and that there is a path to healing and justice.