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15,160 Survivors Among Us

I became aware of the untested sexual assault kit issue in North Carolina and knew I had to create something for survivors who had endured our failed system.

In 2018, 15,160 untested kits were found on crime lab shelves in NC. Many dated back decades. I couldn't stop thinking about all the predators who remained free to re-offend. I wondered how many times they had and how many DNA kits were repeat DNA. Then when I wanted to start painting, I realized I needed to find the updated data thinking North Carolina must have made progress.

When I couldn't find the updated number online, I started making phone calls to ask where I could get the information. At the state-level, I called the NC Crime lab and the attorney general's office... repeatedly for weeks. Locally, I called the police department, the special crimes unit, the cold case unit, the public affairs office, the courts.. for weeks.

I learned the updated numbers don't exist. You read that right. The state of North Carolina cannot tell you how many of the 15,160 have been tested or how many arrests have been made even though millions in tax funding was allocated for that purpose.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein ran on this issue when he was elected. By law, NC should be updating the public on progress annually but they aren’t. At this point I’ve learned tracking is incredibly complicated, many NC kits have been destroyed along the way, and the conviction rate for these crimes is lower than 5%. Even if convicted the sentencing is the lowest for any violent crime.

This painting is 15,160 marks for all the survivors who will never see justice.


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