Ending the Rape Kit Backlog


In the late 1990s, there were approximately 17,000 untested rape kits in New York City, representing thousands of unsolved cases, and thousands of victims waiting months, years, even decades, for justice. For the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the backlog was unacceptable. The Office’s Sex Crimes Unit – the first of its kind in the nation – led an initiative to test every rape kit in the City’s custody. Clearing the backlog enabled the Office to file 49 indictments based on DNA cold case hits. Combined, those offenders are now serving more than 900 years in jail. We continue to receive new hits on cold cases – and now we’re helping law enforcement across the country do the same.

In 2015, District Attorney Vance announced an unprecedented investment to fund the testing of tens of thousands of rape kits sitting in storage facilities across the country – addressing a women’s rights issue that had gone overlooked for decades.

Following a year-long application process, District Attorney Vance awarded approximately $38 million in grants to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states across the United States to eliminate backlogs of untested sexual assault evidence kits, or “rape kits.” More than 51,000 backlogged rape kits have been submitted for testing, generating DNA evidence that is helping solve cases across the country. Already, more than 100 new arrests have been made, with 22 new convictions for sexual assault.

Notable Case:

In August 2016, Joseph Giardala was sentenced to 22 2/3-to-68 years in prison for the 1995 knifepoint rape of a woman in Chelsea. A rape kit was completed immediately following the attack, but a DNA profile was not developed until 2002, when New York City tested the kit as part of its effort to tackle the City’s rape kit backlog. The DNA profile did not match any existing profiles in the national databank, so prosecutors indicted the profile as a “John Doe.” In early 2015, Joseph Giardala’s DNA was entered into the national database following an unrelated matter, and matched the “John Doe” profile. Just over a year later, a jury convicted Giardala at trial of all counts of the indictment against him. Learn more.