Last week, Baltimore County Police arrested a 70-year-old man accused of committing at least five rapes in the 1970s and 1980s.
James Shipe Sr. was arrested after DNA evidence from the 1970s linked him to the crimes. A DNA swab from Shipe Sr. was found to match forensic evidence collected under the Greater Baltimore Medical Center Slide Project.
The GBMC Slide Project is a collection of forensic evidence gathered from sexual assault survivors by visionary doctor Rudiger Breitnecker, who collected evidence from survivors long before DNA evidence was introduced as an investigative tool, hoping that someday it would help convict rapists. He collected this evidence, stored in the form of glass slides, from more than 2,000 rape exams.
Rapists should be held accountable for their actions, no matter how long ago they committed these crimes, but it's important to remember the complicated emotions survivors may experience after being left with unanswered questions about their case for decades. As Amanda Rodriguez, executive director of MCASA's member program TurnAround, said, often survivors whose rapes occurred years ago often "can't close a chapter" in their lives. "When you bring that back 40 years later, it can be a really hard experience for survivors."
Through the Maryland Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), MCASA works to provide survivors with answers about their sexual assault evidence kit and support services to help them process the difficult emotions they may experience. MCASA's SAKI Project aims to not only hold offenders accountable, but also provide critical healing and closure opportunities to all survivors affected by the backlog of untested rape kits.
If you were sexually assaulted and do not know what happened to your rape kit, MCASA SAKI Advocates are here to help you, even if the assault happened decades ago. Every survivor deserves answers.
If you had a sexual assault forensic exam and would like to receive updates about the testing of your kit, you can contact SAKI:
MCASA advocates annually in Annapolis for legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, and is committed to resolving the backlog and supporting transparency of rape kit testing in Maryland. To learn more about MCASA's advocacy efforts in Annapolis, visit our website. And support our work by attending or sponsoring our 2023 Call to Action on September 12th!