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Failing to fund crime lab victimizes crime victims

When sexual assault victims seek medical care, they may be encouraged to undergo a “rape kit” examination. This allows medical professionals to gather physical evidence that can aid a criminal investigation and prosecution. If a victim was assaulted by a stranger, a rape kit may help identify the perpetrator through DNA profiling.

The already traumatized patient spends up to four hours being prodded and swabbed in the places already violated in an attack. Iowa hospitals turn over the rape kit to law enforcement who send it to the state crime lab for processing.

Then victims, police and prosecutors wait. And wait. And wait.

It may take months for the state’s overwhelmed and understaffed crime lab to process DNA evidence, a Des Moines Sunday Register investigation by Kathy Bolten found. Delays of a year or more are not unusual either.

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