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Detroit has an astonishing idea for how to solve the crisis of its backlog of untested rape kits: raising $10 million through charitable donations. This first-of-its-kind strategy is led by tenacious Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, herself a survivor of rape, and it is an historic effort to motivate individuals to fill a yawning public sector gap.

The campaign struck a chord: It raised more than $900,000 from all 50 states and a number of foreign countries in its first month. That total continues to climb. Sheryl Sandberg’s foundation sent an unsolicited $25,000 check. Actress Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU backed the project through her Joyful Heart Foundation, and stood beside Worthy in recent press conferences. Comerica Bank, DTE Energy and the MGM Grand Casino Hotel signed on. Even small local groups like book groups and a canasta club are taking action.

Worthy also says that her office is in the “very, very beginning stages” of partnering with UPS. Detroit will be a pilot site for a program that will track rape kits the way that the big shipping company tracks packages, following them from the hospital to the lab to prosecution. “It’s in the initial stages, but we hope it will be a success nationally,” Worthy says.

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