Rape Kit Transparency Town Hall

The processing of a rape kit seems like it has always been a problem in Chicago and Illinois. For as far back as we can remember the Illinois State Police Crime Lab has had some sort of backlog in processing rape kits to determine if there is biological evidence that could be used to match to profiles in the DNA database. There has also been, and may still exist, a problem with local police departments submitting kits for testing.

Read CJP’s Data Brief titled “Rape Kit Backlog – What We Do and Don’t Know” here.

These problems exacerbate an already humongous problem of just getting responding officers and detectives to believe the survivor is telling the truth. Then there is further obstacles to prosecuting offenders within the system when prosecutors refuse to press charges based on non-legal factors like how the survivor was dressed, whether the survivor consumed drugs or alcohol prior to the assault, and whether the assault was committed by someone known to the survivor.

For all of these reasons and more we decided to feature this topic in our first town hall we titled “Re-imagining a New Paradigm of Rape Kit Transparency”. Tonight our panelists are:

Maria Balata

Mariá Balata is Director of Advocacy Services. Since joining the team in 2012, Mariá has directly worked with and supervised the provision of services for nearly 3000 survivors and their loved ones. Today Mariá oversees the largest team at Resilience who walk with survivors navigating legal and medical options in the aftermath of sexual violence. Mariá also works closely with institutions to promote the implementation of survivor-centered practices throughout the Chicago area.

Ilse Knecht

Ilse is the director of policy and advocacy. Ilse has 20 years invested in victim advocacy and is a nationally recognized expert on the rape kit backlog. She leads Joyful Heart’s End The Backlog campaign, which is at the forefront of identifying untested rape kits across the country, appealing for laws and policies to improve criminal justice responses to sexual violence; and working with jurisdictions to assist them to develop and implement survivor-centered reforms.

Donna Plier

Donna Plier, is program manager, has been with GACS since 1998 years and currently serves as the Program Manger for Sexual Assault Service Center and the Partner Abuse Intervention Program. Donna earned her Bachelor of Arts degree as well as her Master’s degree in Criminal/Social Justice from Lewis University. Donna serves on the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) Executive and Program Committee and Chairs the ICASA Personnel Committee.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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