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The problem was unique in the fundraising world: How do you create a sense of urgency around untested rape kits that lay forgotten for a decade? Or for seeking justice for assault victims — most of them low-income Detroit women — whose cases had been shoved aside by the Detroit Police Department?

It’s been a year since Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy joined forces with the Michigan Women’s Foundation and the private Detroit Crime Commission to reinvent the justice wheel. They called it Enough SAID.

This is the new Detroit, post-bankruptcy, post “grand bargain,” where labels about public and private, black and white, corporate and nonprofit are blurring in ways once unimaginable.

Worthy, passionate and determined, had become a national voice of outrage, galvanizing attention for the rape kit issue around the world. Carolyn Cassin, the CEO of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, was listening: She wants the Michigan Women’s Foundation, a philanthropic organization, to become a dynamic force for good, not merely well-intentioned and helpful.

The challenge was large: to raise $10 million to complete testing the 11,341 rape kits and to hire investigators and prosecutors that could close cases, and bring justice to as many of those women as possible.

This isn’t how crime-fighting usually works. But the untested rape kits had become symbols of governmental failure and uncaring. Enough SAID was a way for people to say: We do care. Enough to give. Enough to pitch in to ameliorate a governmental failure.

Test. Investigate. Prosecute.

As a charity, it’s absolutely unorthodox but it’s also tangible and real: These victims, abandoned by the system, get another shot at justice.

And women, men, corporations throughout the state have stepped up to donate or help in other ways, responding to the call that, as Cassin says, “women’s lives have value.”

Help came from the established, affluent donors of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, but the cause drew new support, too. One day last year, annoyed by Facebook debates over Bill Cosby, Wayne State trustee Kim Trent remembered that Peg Tallett, the community engagement officer at the Michigan Women’s Foundation had asked her months before to help organize black women for Enough SAID. “I called Peg and said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”

The result was the 490 Challenge, led by a coalition of African-American women’s sororities and organizations. (The name pledges the $490 cost of testing a rape kit. ) “I saw it as my way to help change the culture. We had these kits sitting on a shelf. I decide I’m not going to debate any more.” The challenge has raised over $60,000 — with more to be announced soon, says Trent.

Enough SAID is working because it’s articulating a clear goal: A problem that can be solved. That’s how the Michigan Women’s Foundation has already raised $1.3 million privately, while successfully lobbying government entities to take responsibility. Even struggling Wayne County kicked in $1 million. (You can donate at www.EnoughsaidDetroit.org or www.aa490challenge.org: it all winds up in the same tax-deductible coffer.)

Cassin says the moment the 490 Challenge was announced was the emotional highlight of the year.

“It felt like we were breaking new ground,” she said of that moment, at a press conference that drew a hundred African-American women on a work day. “This is how it’s supposed to be: Supporting each other on issues we all care about.”

lberman@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2032

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