WEST SAYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — After decades of foot-dragging, survivors of sexual assault may soon get the justice they deserve.
A lack of funding meant that the rape kits of thousands of victims were held in storage and never processed.
All that is about to change.
Natasha Alexenko was a New York City college student entering her building at Riverside and 95th Street when police say she became the victim of a violent sex crime.
“The first thing you want to do after you have been violated and assaulted, is take a really hot shower, unfortunately your body has become a crime scene,” she told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Alexenko went to the hospital and endured hours of questioning and examination. As she, her family, and friends agonized, the rape went unsolved for years.
“I had a wonderful phone call in 2003 from the DA’s office in New York City saying, ‘we are testing your rape kit,’ of course I assumed it had been tested,” she said.
Hers had been one of a national backlog of more than 140,000 sexual offense evidence kits from victims that languished in storage due to lack of funding, staff, or in some cases resistance from law enforcement.
“The man who raped me was on a nationwide crime spree,” Alexenko said.
Alexenko now runs a national rape victim’s group, she said if only the government had spent the $500 to $1,500 per kit to have lab testing, her rapist could have been stopped a decade sooner. He’s now incarcerated until 2057.
“It took a lot of concentrated effort for something you said when you looked at it, why wasn’t this done a long time ago? But now we will have a standard uniform testing of rape kits,” Sate Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-LI).
A bipartisan push to allocate money in the state budget for testing has just passed in Albany.
“I hope survivors out there will know somebody cares, and somebody wants them to get the justice that they deserve,” Alexenko said.
New York will join three other states to eliminate backlogs and submit DNA to the national database within 6 months of receiving a kit.
Natasha’s Justice Project stands behind DNA testing to exonerate the innocent and catch the guilty.