Kym Worthy is the prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan (where Detroit is located). If you are on Tumblr, then you have probably read about her. If you read “prosecutor” as just whichever attorney is prosecuting someone in court, I do not blame you. The position is known as district attorney in most counties (who head departments of assistant district attorneys or deputy district attorneys). In Illinois, the title is state’s attorney. It’s kind of silly how some states wanted to be hipsters and come up with their own names for these things, but whatever.
Kym Worthy is, well, awesome. One might even say that she is giving that wretched county the prosecutor it deserves.
I’m not praising her for prosecuting Detroit’s absurdly corrupt mayor a few years ago. I’m not even praising her, specifically, for being a strong black woman doing a difficult job in a difficult place.
I am praising her for being vocally outraged and calling attention to the fact that thousands upon thousands of genetic samples gathered after rapes are simply kept in storage rather than being processed in a timely manner.
This is not a problem specific to Detroit. Federal crime labs and, well, basically every other crime lab in the country has this problem. The genetic material gathered in rape kits by those few rape survivors (or, even more tragically, from those who did not survive their sexual assault) is not given priority and is not processed. Over time, genetic material degrades when not properly stored. Over time, evidence storage buildings flood.
Women (and men) who come to the police and undergo invasive medical exams immediately after suffering, in most cases, the worst traumas of their lives do so because they want justice and because they want to stop their attacker from attacking anyone else (there aren’t “one-time rapists,” you guys. There are rapists who are stopped or, better yet, die after their first rape. That’s all that keeps them from continuing to rape).
When a rape kit is put on a shelf, a rapist remains free. And finds other victims.
Kym Worthy (herself a rape-survivor) is making processing rape evidence a priority (as it should be). We may not, at the moment, live in a civilization that is particularly good at deterring rape or supporting rape-survivors or giving rapists what they deserve, but even a prosecution and a few years of incarceration (along with the “sex-offender” label) is better than letting these sickening monsters run free.
Kym Worthy’s efforts have already put a spotlight on the systematic failure to move forward in rape investigations. And they have, of course, already identified serial rapists—at least one of whom has also committed murder since original samples were taken from someone whom he had raped.
Kym Worthy’s cause is just. We need more people who are willing to get things done.