By Natasha Brown


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – New DNA evidence from thousands of sexual assault cases has been discovered after Philadelphia cleared its backlog of untested rape kits, officials say. It’s been a monumental task that’s been underway for years in the city.

There was promising news Thursday for sexual assault survivors who may have wondered if their cases would ever be solved.

Justice may be on the horizon for hundreds of victims – some whose rape kits have sat untested on a shelf for decades.

“The city of Philadelphia has cleared and completed the testing of 1,574 previously untested forensic evidence collection kits, otherwise known as rape kits,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

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Some of the kits date back to the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The significant clearance rate has been a collaborative effort by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and police that began in 2015.

“Many, many, many of these cases are now solved,” Krasner said. “We have recently made an arrest from a previously unsolved rape that occurred in 1999.”

Philadelphia Police’s Office of Forensic Science has tested nearly 4,000 backlogged and new sexual assault kits.

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“Today these 1,574 old kits and the remaining 2,500 new kits, also untested, were not accessed,” Krasner said. “This delay prevented citizens from receiving justice.”

Dr. Monique Howard, of Women Organized Against Rape, says the backlog clearance will lead many survivors out of the shadows and hopefully into closure.

“Everyone knows about the rape kit backlog so they feel it won’t get investigated,” Howard said. “This says it will happen. There will be retribution. There will be a consequence to what happened to you.”

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Thousands of new DNA evidence from the kits is now entered into a national database, which prosecutors say will go a long way in solving rapes and other crimes around the country.

The District Attorney’s Office says there are as many as 65 cases of stranger rape that had gone unsolved since 2007 and now due to the backlog clearance, a connection to potential suspects has been made.

They’re urging anyone who may want to check on where their rape kit stands to reach out to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit.