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Too Drunk to Say Yes: Possible Rape Victim Denied Rape Kit

Too Drunk to Say Yes: Possible Rape Victim Denied Rape Kit

For years women who have been sexually assaulted have had to deal with people who believe that is they didn’t say no, then a rape did not really happen.  Usually, due to drinking, drugs, or other influences a woman who finds herself unable to say no is unable to consent as well, something society is now much more likely to consider rape.

But in Washington D.C, the same argument — that a woman couldn’t consent so the sex was an assault, is being used to block one means for documenting and prosecuting her attacker.

Washington City Paper tells the story of a college student they call Hannah, who went to a party, drank, was possibly drugged, and believed she may have then been sexually assaulted.  There’s only one problem — being too blacked out to know if she was raped or not mean that the hospital considered her ineligable because she wasn’t entirely certain there was an assault at all.

“We think she’s been raped,” Kerston and Sade informed an orderly as they dragged her into the hospital. Hospital officials handed Sade some paperwork to fill out on Hannah’s behalf. In the box indicating the reason for the ER visit, Sade testifies that she wrote, “raped, possibly drugged.” A nurse sat Hannah down and took her blood pressure. Hannah threw up on the floor. Kerston and Sade helped to clean it up off of the ground. The nurse put a vomit bag in Hannah’s hands. She was incoherent and barely conscious. She threw up into the bag. According to the girls’ testimony, when a doctor finally saw Hannah, she determined that she was too incoherent to consent to receive a rape kit, because she couldn’t verbally confirm that she had been raped. According to the girls, the doctor told them to take Hannah home, let her sleep it off, make sure she didn’t shower, and then return to Howard University Hospital for a rape kit the next day.

After coming back the following day, she was then told that she needed to wait of a detective to authorize a kit, but the detective felt that she did not provide enough information to truly prove that she was raped.

Later, D.C. police officer Michael Minor reported to the hospital to take a report from Hannah. In a notebook, he recorded Kerston’s information as a witness, noted the location of the party, and sketched a description of the suspect. Then, he called the Sexual Assault Unit, where he was patched into Spriggs. Minor told Spriggs he had a victim complaining of sexual assault and needed a rape kit authorized. Though D.C. police policy requires detectives to report to the scene to interview the victim in person, Spriggs decided to do this one by phone. Spriggs told Minor to put Hannah on the line. Spriggs, sitting in the SAU office, determined that Hannah hadn’t been the victim of a crime. “She told me that she was at a party. And she remembered kissing a guy,” Spriggs testified. “I repeated back to her what she said to me. And there was a pause,” he said. Back on the phone with Minor, “I said, this young lady, she’s not reporting anything, she’s not reporting a crime to me. I’m not bringing a sex kit up here.” Spriggs then testified as to why he didn’t press Hannah to explain why she needed a kit: “I’m not going to feed you any information to give you an opportunity to embellish you story,” Spriggs testified. “If you are reporting something to me, then you should be able to tell me what that is. And she did not report any crime to me.”

Hannah testified that she did tell Spriggs she had been raped, but that he informed her “I would not be able to receive a sex kit because I do not know the person or whoever it was last name,” she said. “I didn’t know the last name. So I could not receive the sex kit.” Minor left without filling out a police report documenting Hannah’s sexual assault allegation.

Stymied at one hospital, Hannah went to numerous locations, all with a different excuse: her case was already closed, she was outside of the hospital’s jurisdiction, etc.  But perhaps the most frightening aspect of her encounter is that fact that no one was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Rape as a crime is already inherently difficult to convict.  Besides the need to deal with a criminal system that shifts the burden of proof onto the victim, rather than the alleged perpetrator, it is one of the few crimes that inevitably takes into account not just facts, but the idea of reputation as well.  An attacker can build a defense not out of rebutting facts, but on casting doubt on the deeds and details of a victim’s personal life.  It not only adds a wrinkle to defending but also adds incentive for a victim not to prosecute.

The only way to be more sure about a conviction is to have the ability to gather physical evidence.  But when the gatekeepers to the rape kits have the ability to cut off an investigation before it even starts, then yet another crime has occurred, this one much more heinous.

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139 comments

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4:58PM PDT on May 17, 2010

@Cynthia Goins: I am shocked and appalled at the fact that this is coming from a woman.

Imagine this senario:
you are at a friends get together and have one too many...

or if you aren't a drinker:

you are at the same party and someone drops something in your soda while you are distracted talking to a friend.

when you come to you can't quite remember exactly what happened.... please try to have a little compassion for others and attempt to put yourself in another's shoes before making such callous statements.
You are correct though, we all do have the right to say no, but we all also have the right to be given the opportunity to say yes. And we have the right to not be taken by force (even if very little force is necessary) if we are unable to grant that yes. period.

3:40PM PDT on Apr 27, 2010

No woman should ever be treated like this or denied a rape kit...I do think we need to start acting, in part, for our own first line in defense though. We need to teach our daughters to drink responsibly when around strange men and to NEVER leave a drink unattended where it would be easily drugged (though it could still happen, you can at least reduce the chances). A woman should have the right to have fun too w/o fear of rape, but as long as there are sick pervs in this world we have to learn when it is ok and safe to "let go and have fun" and when we need to be more in control of our mental state. I had male friends I knew I could pass out at their house and I would be fine (and I was); I then went to a party with a bunch of ppl I did not know and was put in a situation that could have turned bad had I not been lucky enough to have someone defend me. It is a sad and pathetic thing that we have to worry if someone will harm us or a woman we love; I wish we did not have to be concerned with these issues.

**Just so everyone is clear I am in NO WAY saying any woman deserves to be raped or molested or hurt in ANY way even if they are "messed up" or whatever. I am only saying we should be conscious and alert to possible creeps and act accordingly...Though that can not guarantee someone you thought you knew won't hurt you, it can at least reduce the chance of someone at a party you do not know doing so (though there is never a guarantee, unfortunately).

11:33AM PDT on Apr 21, 2010

Thanks for the article.

12:05AM PDT on Apr 19, 2010

I cannot believe that any officer of the law can withhold a rape kit from a "possible" rape victim.
Does he have to pay for it out of his own pocket, by any chance?
It wa a shocking turn of events but I am sure the lady in question will think twice before she drinks so much that she could possibly be drugged.
Let this be a lesson to any young woman in the same position.
There are always lewd young men who are on the prowl and will look out for a likely victim!

8:05AM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

I think this sort of disheartening situation is the worst-fear of most women, and why many of them won't report it. it feels like a toss-up to me between just trying to live after the fact or trying every door to find help only to have it shut in my face and then trying to live after the fact.

Interesting, though, how each place she went to gave different excuses--like they're hoping it'll go away because they feel they've got more important things to do or some other BS. ugh.

1:04AM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

it`s bad enough that many women do not report a rape, but you deny the ones that may have been assulted what they need to find out the truth. i cannot imagine their anguish, can you?

3:20PM PDT on Apr 15, 2010

I don't care how much time it takes or which patient it takes you away from . IF a woman comes into the hospital and there is even the slightest inkling that she MIGHT have been raped. The rape kit should be used with or without her consent( in the event she is drunk, blacked out ,or unconsious )
Rape is NOT about SEX , it's about POWER !!
For every rape kit that is denied a woman-- there is a man out there laughing his ass off because he got away with rape once again.
Women we need to take Back our power. Demand of your local hospitals, city, county and state representives that rape kits be made available to any woman who can request it or if the people around her think that she has been raped.
This is 2010 people -- this should NOT be happening in this day and age of enlightenment.

12:31PM PDT on Apr 15, 2010

@Brian S again: "2) A drunk pedestrian falls into the path of a car: the pedestrian's fault"

Come to think of it, this scenario doesn't apply either. For the same reason.

12:25PM PDT on Apr 15, 2010

@Brian S: "3) A drunk pedestrian falls into the path of a car, which fails to take appropriate action, because the driver is also drunk. This is the fault of both concerned and this is where it is unfair to blame the man for not getting consent, when neither is in a fit state to work out what the other wants."

Brian, this scenario doesn't apply to the case at hand. A car is a ton or more of mass travelling at 30 mph or more, and as such has tremendous momentum that physically affects the driver's ability to change direction to avoid hitting the other person. There is no "sexual momentum" that physically affects a person's ability to avoid inserting something into another person's body. The woman didn't "fall into the path" of the man's penis, making it unavoidable for him to insert it into her. At any time during the incident, it was physically possible for the man NOT to do so.

7:17AM PDT on Apr 15, 2010

I find it a false proposition that women consent to be raped in the first place. Just going to a party and getting drunk does not furnish consent to be mauled by anyone. Where is the proof that she consented? I know that silly idea can never be proved.

People who have large parties that furnish alcohol have a responsibility for the safety of people in their home. The ball should be in their court. Ditto for owners of bars that sell alcoholic drinks.

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