Collecting forensic evidence from a rape victim takes two to six hours at a time when most of us would want nothing more than a hot shower and to crawl under our own covers.
The payoff is that the evidence, especially DNA, can not only confirm a suspect's identity or that a sexual assault occurred but also solve other crimes — if it's ever tested by a laboratory.
That's a big "if." Kentucky's backlog of untested rape kits is estimated to be in the thousands.
Kudos to the legislature and state Auditor Adam Edelen for taking the first step toward eliminating the backlog. A resolution, sponsored by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, requires an audit of untested rape kits by Nov. 1.
Edelen has said that, besides surveying more than 400 law enforcement agencies to count untested kits, his office will take a deeper look at what happens after someone reports being sexually assaulted and what Kentucky can learn from best practices in other places.
It costs about $1,000 to test a rape kit. Police send them to the Kentucky State Police Laboratory where staff turnover has contributed to a backlog of about 350 untested kits.
One big advantage of testing all rape kits is that it builds a database that helps solve other crimes.
After New York City, which eliminated its backlog of 17,000 kits in 2003, began testing every rape kit booked into evidence, the arrest rate for rape rose from 40 percent to 70 percent, compared to 24 percent nationally, according to the national nonprofit Endthebacklog.
In Detroit, where 11,000 untested kits were discovered, the first 1,600 tests identified 100 serial rapists, at least 10 of whom had been convicted by last year, reports The Daily Beast news site.
Testing a backlog in Fort Worth, Texas, yielded more than 200 DNA matches, 47 arrests, 36 felony convictions and the apprehension of five serial rapists.
In Kentucky, Michelle Kuiper said at a news conference that rape kit evidence from her 1994 rape in Louisville and that of two other victims led to convicting a serial rapist in 2011.
About one in five Kentucky women report having been raped. Victims should undergo a sexual-assault forensic exam — or SAFE — even if they don't plan to report the assault to police. In Lexington and many places, specially trained nurses provide exams and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Once victims do their part, the state should start doing its part by making sure the evidence is tested.