Worthy, ESPN’s Hill compete in rape kit fundraiser

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and ESPN commentator Jemele Hill hope to tap the excitement surrounding Saturday’s rivalry football matchup between Michigan and Michigan State to raise money for testing 1,341 rape kits in unsolved cases.

Worthy, a University of Michigan grad, and Hill, who graduated from Michigan State University, are leading teams of fellow alums to see which group can raise more money to help clear the backlog of untested rape kits. Thousands of the kits languished for years in a Detroit police storage facility; so far, 10,000 kits have been tested.

Worthy’s team includes UM Regents Shauna Ryder Diggs and Denise Ilitch.

Hill’s team includes Karla Henderson, chief operating officer for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and Alicia Nails, director of the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University.

“For far too long, sexual assault victims have been vilified, marginalized, and ignored on college campuses. We are turning this on its head. Two rival universities are uniting behind sexual assault victims (and) raising money to bring justice to them. There are no losers here. But there will be a loser at the end of the game in the Big House. Hail to the Victors! Go Blue!” Worthy said Wednesday.

Hill, who is the co-host of ESPN’s “His and Hers” show, said she is happy to be part of the effort to solve rape cases.

“For me, it’s a personal issue on a lot of levels,” Hill said Wednesday. “As a native Detroiter, I still care about very much about Detroit and the issue (of rape). I was attacked as a pre-teen. I was able to escape from my attacker. I was one of the lucky ones because I escaped.”

Hill added that a close relative was raped, and that the rivalry gives her the chance to wrap all the things she cares about, including MSU and the city of Detroit, “all into one bundle.”

Earlier this month, Worthy and a coalition of local organizations representing African-American women kicked off the African American 490 Challenge of Enough SAID to raise $657,090 over the next 18 months to fund the testing of the remaining kits. Enough SAID (Enough Sexual Assault in Detroit) was started by Worthy and the Michigan Women’s Foundation.

To date, $14.5 million has been raised to fund the testing of the kits. Another $14 million is needed to finish the testing. It costs $490 to test individual rape kits.

“Eighty-one percent of the victims are African-Americans,” said Kim Trent, one of the organizers of the effort. “We are black women who stand ready to make sure this never happens again, and that the women it happened to get justice.”

Some women are hosting house parties and tapping local vendors to reach their fundraising goal.

It’s the latest effort to raise money to have the rape kits tested. More than five years ago, 11,341 untested rape kits were found abandoned in a Detroit Police Department storage unit. According to authorities, 549 suspected serial rapists had been identified as a result of the testing as of Aug. 31.

To contribute, go to www.aa490challenge.org. Participants are being asked to indicate which team they are supporting.

bwiliams@detroitnews.com