First, they experience invasive collection of evidence – from the scraping of their fingernails to the swabbing of their mouths. Using a fluorescent lamp, a technician further searches a victim’s body for evidence not visible to the naked eye. Finally, a highly-trained nurse or doctor will check for injuries to a victim’s genital area. In the aftermath of an emotionally draining and debilitating assault, it is hard to imagine that such an exam would be anything less than excruciating. But victims tolerate the indignity of evidence collection because the DNA collected in rape kits can often be the most important link between them and justice.

Sadly in Detroit, that critical link – and law enforcement’s covenant to protect rape victims – has too often been broken. In 2009, a member of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s staff discovered that 11,341 rape kits sat unprocessed on shelves at a Detroit Police Department building for years. Worthy, herself a rape victim, was horrified by the discovery and set about immediately to get justice for the victims of these crimes.

Thankfully, due to the tenacity of Worthy and other victims’ rights advocates, future rape victims in Michigan will be guaranteed timely processing of their rape kits. But the victims whose rape kits sat on shelves can’t – and won’t – be forgotten. To that end, a broad coalition of Black women leaders – representing the grassroots, the halls of power, and everything in between- has come together to speak with one loud voice in defense of rape victims. We have partnered with Enough SAID (Sexual Assaults in Detroit), a campaign organized by the Detroit Crime Commission, the Wayne County Prosecutor and Michigan Women’s Foundation, to raise millions of dollars to pay for the processing of backlogged rape kits, investigation of resulting leads, and prosecution of alleged rapists discovered as a result of the process. Our campaign – the Enough SAID African American 490 Challenge – will mobilize Black women to raise money for this important effort.

Nearly 81 percent of Detroit’s rape victims are African American. These are our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our neighbors, our cousins, our friends. As a rape victim who did not report, I am proud to be an organizer for this effort because I believe that victims who have the courage to face their assailants in court deserve to have that day in court. Unsolved rapes drop by 50 percent when rape kits are properly processed and investigated.

The Enough SAID African American 490 Challenge is a three-part effort:

  • Through the “Enough SAID African American 490 Leaders Challenge” we will identify Black women leaders who will raise or donate $490 each (the cost to process one rape kit).
  • Through Enough SAID African American 490 Challenge special events and presentations, we will encourage black women to host house parties and other activities to raise awareness and funds for the Enough SAID campaign
  • The Enough SAID African American 490 Group Challenge aims to work with black women’s groups to help raise money, recruit volunteers, and raise awareness for this issue. Through the Enough SAID African American 490 Group Challenge, Black women’s organizations are asked to raise money for, and awareness of, the crisis among their members.

The campaign’s leadership team features a wide representation of Black female leadership in Detroit, including: entrepreneur and well-known public relations expert Darci McConnell; former State Representative and community organizer Maureen Stapleton; political and community organizer Thea Todd White; Rebecca Thompson, Executive Director of Good Jobs Now; Larmender Davis, a well-known advocate for women in crisis; Institute for Population Health President and CEO Loretta Davis; journalists and activists Desiree Cooper, Jamilah Jackson, and Alicia Nails; fundraising and leadership expert Dr. Geneva Williams, and Shareia Carter, director of the University of Michigan Dearborn Women’s Resource Center.

In addition to the core committee, a number of high profile women in Detroit have signed on to the campaign, including: U.S. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-14th Congressional District), New Detroit President Shirley Stancato, WCHB-AM host Mildred Gaddis, Detroit City Councilwomen Janee L. Ayres, Brenda Jones, and Mary Sheffield, spoken word artist and musician Jessica Care Moore, WMXD-FM personality Frankie Darcell, Dara Munson, Chief Operating Officer for Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan; Michigan Welfare Rights Organization leaders Marian Kramer and Maureen Taylor, visual artist Jocelyn Rainey, Cheryl Hudson, owner of Woodhouse Day Spa; University of Michigan Board of Regents Chair Shauna Ryder Diggs, Portia Roberson, director of the City of Detroit’s Human Rights Department; Detroit Parent Network CEO Sharlonda Buckman, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, longtime political and social activists Akua Budu-Watkins, Annette Rainwater, and Emma Bell; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit President and CEO Jeanine Gant, Michigan Chronicle Associate Publisher Cathy Nedd, Rev. Dee Dee Coleman, pastor of Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church and First Vice President of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity; Detroit Public Schools Foundation President Glenda Price, Leslie Graham Andrews, Director of Community Relations and Corporate Philanthropy for Rock Ventures;   LaToya Henry, Chief Operations Officer for WardHill Omni Media; former Wayne County Clerk Teola Hunter, Kamilia Landrum, Programs and Member Services Director for the Detroit Branch of the NAACP; retired Skillman Foundation President Carol Goss; Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, Beverly Smith, publisher of Detroit Smart Pages Newspaper; Cheryl Johnson, CEO of the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS); Wayne County Commissioners Alisha Bell, Irma Clark-Coleman, Martha G. Scott and Jewel Ware; public speaker and finance expert Gail Perry-Mason, Women’s Informal Network Founder Patricia Cole, and State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo.

In addition, several Black women entrepreneurs have made in-kind donations to the effort. Graphic artist Elena Farmer designed the group’s logo and Sandra James created its website. In-kind donations of photography from In My Eye Photography and digital media marketing from Change Media Group are helping the group reach out to potential donors. Two black women who own local spas have organized events that will raise money for the campaign at their businesses. On October 22 from 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Cheryl Hudson of Woodhouse Day Spa, 1447 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, will donate a portion of the proceeds from her annual “Pink and Purple” spa fundraiser for groups supporting efforts to end breast cancer and violence against women to the Enough SAID African American 490 campaign. On October 24, Lavender Mobile Spa owner Tracey Sanders will host a fundraiser for the campaign at the Westin Hotel in Southfield 1500 Town Center in Southfield from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Several important Black women’s groups have also committed to supporting the effort, including: the Great Lakes and Wayne County chapters of the Links, Incorporated; the Lambda Pi Omega and Tau Alpha Omega chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the Inkster Alumnae and Southfield Alumnae chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Detroit Association of Women’s Clubs.

Since I started delivering speeches toBlack women’s groups about this issue a few months ago, I have been amazed how many women with painful memories haunting their eyes have approached me privately to share with me that they are rape survivors. Each encounter has strengthened my resolve to give my best to end Detroit’s rape kit crisis.

Rape is a soul crushing crime. I am so proud that black women have linked arms together to give support to our sisters who have endured the double betrayal of sexual assault and backlogged rape kits.

You can donate to the Enough SAID African American 490 Challenge at: https://www.crowdrise.com/africanamerican490challenge/fundraiser/kimtrent1

For more information, visit our website at http://www.aa490challenge.org/index.html or email us at 490challenge@gmail.com .

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