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A Chance at Justice Denied: Rape Kits in America Go Untested

A Chance at Justice Denied: Rape Kits in America Go Untested

“After he let me live I wished he killed me.”

Such were Debbie Smith’s words after describing a rape she endured nearly 20 years ago when a masked man abducted her from her home and took her to a nearby woods where he repeatedly raped her.

Early this week, Smith took to Capitol Hill to share her story with a Senate panel in an attempt to urge them to eliminate the startling backlog of untested rape kits in the U.S.

Exactly how many rape kits are we talking about?

A 5-month CBS investigation revealed that more than 20,000 rape kits in major American cities have gone untested and another 6,000 are sitting in crime labs waiting months, if not years, to be tested.

“Can you imagine going through an exam like what goes on in one of those things for nothing? To know that you were just traumatized again, for it to sit on a shelf, it’s not fair,” Smith said.

INo, it’s not fair or just.

While the rape kits pile up in labs across the country, rapists walk free and in many cases go on to rape others. In fact, research shows that 71% of rapists are repeat offenders.

In cities where rape kits are tested in a timely manner, however, the results are stunning. In New York City, for example, where every rape kit is tested, the arrest rate for rape is 70%  – that’s nearly triple the national average.

New York City has proved that testing rape kits helps convict rapists who otherwise might have found other victims. Allowing rape kits to collect dust in crime labs not only prevents women from seeking justice, it endangers others from being raped by someone who should be in jail.

“Each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere,” a tearful Smith said at the hearing where several senators called for the need to strengthen a 2005 bill (named after Smith) aimed at reducing the backlog of untested rape kits.

Doing so is imperative for women’s safety in this country – a country where last year nearly 90,000 women reported being raped and another estimated 75,000 attacks went unreported. A country where in that same year the rate of rape related arrest was just 25% while the rate for murder was 79% and aggravated assault was 51%.

Women deserve to live in a country where they can come forward and report a rape knowing that they will be taken seriously, that if they choose to endure a rape kit it is not for naught.  

Women deserve a chance at justice.

Related from Care2:

“Culture of Secrecy” Surrounds Sexual Assault Proceedings On College Campuses

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Photo copyright: iStockphoto - http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/09/cbsnews_investigates/main5590118.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

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129 comments

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11:22AM PST on Jan 26, 2010

Spoken like a male-ist, who has never been raped. But I do hear what what you're saying. Women who do that disgust me as much if not more than you, Anthony. They make us all look bad! Besides, my nephew got sentenced to 60 yrs. in an Arkansas prison, strictly on the testimony of 2 girls, who obviously had been carefully coached. They didn't even get the least bit upset on the witness stand! This was all started, because of a custody battle going on between his wife's sister & her husband. A week before it all started, they had both asked to come & live with my nephew & his wife. Gwen B.

8:41PM PST on Jan 8, 2010

Outrageous. OUTRAGEOUS!

9:20PM PST on Jan 7, 2010

For Koo J and Nyree, please find my link for false allegations and feminisation of the laws,http//www.associatedcontent.com/article/705695/feminist jurisprudence at its finest.html ( I am uncertain about the presence of the dot "." before html, so try it both ways ) It is all very well asking for financial help in paying for these rape kits to be used or processed, but ask your own people first, rather than someone who lives three thousand miles from New York, I have every sympathy with those who suffer as a result of political or financial indifference or incompetence, but in my country, in Britain, you can actually sue our government, for non performance issues, unlike America where even the wrongly convicted and long term imprisoned seem not to have this basic right, change the world, on your own doorstep first. And once more I repeat, that women are their own worst enemies, for false cries of rape, and until women stop making false claims and using this as a tactic to coerce men they do not approve of, or can not control, the situation will remain, that the police are less than happy with yet another cry of wolf, and generally treat all cases or allegations with suspicion, quite rightly too, the position of men who have no privacy from the press is abhorrent and destructive to their families and jobs and the truth rarely published when they are exonerated, all parties deserve privacy in these circumstances, where allegations can ruin lives, until they are proved.

8:29PM PST on Dec 24, 2009

we should as speak up and say we are all important and that we deserve justice too, they also need to extend the time in which they can go after someone who has raped and be able to convict them. Stop those from being victimized twice..

11:29AM PST on Dec 23, 2009

How many times and ways will they allow a Rape victim be victimized? This total irrational behaviour by those who are supposed to be on the victims side. I'm truly outraged to here the statistics on this issue. Thanks for putting it out there.

4:35PM PST on Dec 22, 2009

Men and women get raped. When you have suffered the blame and the shame and the stigma of being raped and trying to report it, then you can talk about false accusations more accurately. Going through a sexual assault exam is extremely difficult, and very, very few people would submit to having one done on a whim. Truth is, 1 in 9 men, and 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted. Only a fraction are reported.

5:39AM PST on Dec 22, 2009

Koo J... the figures for false accusations are all too real, and the primary cause of police cynicism, where rape allegations are made, right now I am too busy to post a link, but will in a few days, the reason so many have difficulty being believed is because so many do press false allegations that waste police time and public money, and to say that these are a cover for the real facts, is not borne out by evidence, it is utter nonsense to claim that the figures for real rapes are somehow being hidden by this, is to display real, and ongoing prejudice against the males it is also utter nonsense, by definition to say that all normal men are rapists, because were it so, the society would simply not have laws against this behaviour, your presumption that you seek to implant, in the minds of others is a wholesale fiction, a bargain basement logic, and presumes that no woman ever lied, or felt ashamed after taking part in a sexual act, with a man, they barely know, or even with someone they actually know, but later regret, because of being in a relationship already, and fear a partner will take offence at their behaviour, or that they would receive criticism from their friends. It amazes me, that this attitude is postulated on the feminisation of laws as being a solution, to an imagined level of sexual behaviour on the part of any one gender, please deal with reality, the simple truth may be the lack of tax dollars which the public in general, and women want to pay for policing

10:42PM PST on Dec 21, 2009

Why on earth aren't the police processing this evidence?? Don't they want to be seen catching rapists??

10:04PM PST on Dec 21, 2009

Wow, I didn't know that it was that bad. That rape kits have been left to pile up.

And I do agree with Bryan about men being victims of rape. They deserve justice just as much as women do.

5:05PM PST on Dec 20, 2009

Who are men who rape, then?

Most of them are ordinary, that is why women have a difficult time being believed. Most men who rape are known to their victims.

Rape isn't even investigateed properly, as shown by this article.

The hysteria over false accusation is a cover for the reality of the frequency of rape. False accustation is much rarer than rape itself.

Your comment doesn't make sense.

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