A lawyer has tracked down 817 serial rapists in one county

Kym Worthy
Support us and go ad-free

A lawyer in Detroit, USA, has spent eight years looking through abandoned DNA evidence relating to rape cases. Not only has she secured 127 convictions, she’s also identified 817 serial rapists in one county alone. On 17 December, she gave a remarkable interview to The Detroit Free Press, and it’s captured the attention of people around the world.

Kym Worthy

Kym Worthy is the first African American and first woman to hold the post of Wayne County Prosecutor. In 2009, a routine tour by her department of a police storage building in Detroit found 11,341 abandoned ‘rape kits’. Each kit contained DNA evidence painstakingly collected from the bodies of women, children and men who had reported being raped. Most of the kits had never been sent for testing. Instead, they were abandoned in a police warehouse.

But Worthy made it her mission to get the kits processed and the perpetrators prosecuted. Eight years on, she’s tested 10,000 kits, identified 817 serial rapists in Wayne County and secured 127 convictions.

Serial rapists

The Detroit Free Press asked Worthy what stood out to her the most from the past eight years. She replied:

The number of serial rapists.

Among Wayne County’s 1.8m people, Worthy identified 817 serial rapists. More than 50 of them had raped 10 to 15 times. One of them went on to rape and murder five women. And yet police had abandoned the kits, which could have put perpetrators behind bars.

‘Low priority’

Why? Worthy believes the rape kits were often a ‘low priority’. “No one turns their back on a cold case homicide,” she said, but sexual assault is “very easy” to sweep under the rug. She elaborated:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

86% of our victims in these untested kits are people of color. You’re not going to find too many blond-haired, blue eyed white women… their cases are solved… that’s just the truth.

A 2015 study [pdf, pp139-141] suggests officers often didn’t believe the victims. Worthy said:

They closed cases because the women had worked as prostitutes or had mental illness issues or had substance abuse. Didn’t believe them, didn’t care…

Justice

It’s not hard to understand why Worthy’s interview has resonated around the world. Her findings suggest sexual assault is “much more pervasive than people think”. The mere existence of the ‘rape kit backlog’ – an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits across the US – speaks volumes about police attitudes towards sexual assault. And those 11,341 abandoned Detroit kits have shone a light on to the predicament of the thousands of sexual assault survivors who have yet to see justice – some of whom, in Wayne County, have been waiting for more than 30 years.

And then there’s Worthy herself, who has dedicated years to pursuing justice for abandoned survivors of sexual assault. Since she started her work, several states have brought in laws to make testing of all rape kits mandatory. And anybody who’s read anything about Worthy will be left in no doubt; she’s only just getting started.

Get Involved

– Read Worthy’s full interview in The Detroit Free Press.

– If you’ve experienced rape, child sexual abuse or any other kind of sexual violence, you can contact Rape Crisis for help, support and information.

Featured image via screengrab

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed