Back in May Marie Claire assigned me to a story that made me angry to even contemplate. It was shocking and unbelievable and utterly repugnant. You ready for this? My subject, the lovely Ms. Helena Lazaro is a rape survivor. She was abducted, assaulted and then released under this overpass in Commerce, CA when she was 17. Her rape kit, the key piece of hard evidence in any rape case, was not processed for 13 years despite Helena’s repeated efforts to find out what was happening with the case. When the LAPD finally ran the kit (only after pressure from a women’s organization Helena had appealed to) they got a hit. Her rapist was in prison in another state. He had gone on to commit at least two more attacks since Helena’s.
Helena is not the only one whose kit has not been tested. The LAPD has a rape kit backlog of over 12,600. Other cities are worse. It’s a nation-wide issue wherein victims of sexual assaults are marginalized within the criminal justice system. It’s abhorrent.
I have to thank Marie Claire for bringing some attention to such an important issue and I also have to thank Helena, who told her story so that others might not suffer as she did.