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Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Historic Triangle has a number of untested rape kits. Here’s why

As Virginia works on a backlog of rape kit tests, departments in the Historic Triangle continue to submit kits for testing. (WYDaily/Courtesy Columbus Air Force Base)
As Virginia works on a backlog of rape kit tests, departments in the Historic Triangle continue to submit kits for testing. (WYDaily/Courtesy Columbus Air Force Base)

Thousands of alleged rape victims in Virginia have waited since before 2014 to learn of the results of their rape kits and the Historic Triangle is no exception.

In 2015, Attorney General Mark Herring and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran announced a $1.4 million grant to begin testing on the backlog of thousands of untested physical evidence recovery kits, or PERK kits.

Since then, phase one of the process has been completed and 1,770 kits have been tested.

But in the Historic Triangle, there are still kits that remain untested for various reasons.

In York County, there were 57 rapes reported between 2014 and March of 2019, according to data from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. Of those, there were 58 PERK kits collected, some of which were from both the victim and the suspect, and from that group there were 34 kits tested.

Next door, in Williamsburg, there were 18 sex offense reports between January 2014 and March 2019, according to data from the Williamsburg Police Department. Of those, five PERK kits were collected and four were sent to the lab for testing.

Finally in James City County, there were a total of 70 forcible rapes reported between 2014 and March 2019, according to data from the James City County Police Department. Of those cases, 41 were considered to be unfounded, meaning the allegations did not provide a basis. Including the unfounded cases, 50 PERK kits were collected.

Deputy Chief of Police Steve Rubino said he was not aware if there were any backlogged PERK tests from James City County.

To define rape, Rubino cited the FBI, which states that rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim.”

But there are a number of reasons it can take a while to have a PERK kit tested, said Capt. Troy Lyons of YPSO.

“When talking about the backlog, if we submit a PERK kit where we have a suspect, those typically go to the head of the line, particularly if you have a victim kit and suspect kit,” Lyons said. “That doesn’t mean it won’t get done first, but it will go in line accordingly. But if they have 100 kits there with no name and there is a kit with the suspect name, that PERK will jump to the head of the line.”

There are variety of different ways a rape report and kit can be collected, but if the alleged victim knows the suspect then generally it is quicker to identify if the suspect’s DNA is present, authorities said.

Lyons said when someone reports they have been raped, typically what happens is gathering the basic information such as when and where the crime happened.

If the report is filed within two weeks of the incident, then the alleged victim can still have a PERK kit performed.

Lyons said the kits are then sent to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for testing. According to VDFS website, under law the kits are required to be submitted within 60 days of testing.

But while those kits might show evidence of whose DNA was involved in the sexual activity, they don’t usually paint the full picture, Lyons said.

“More times than not, the victim says they know the person and it was not consensual but the suspect says it was” Lyons said. “In those situations we still submit the kit and that will tell us who was involved, but it won’t tell us if there was consent.”

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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