At this point, we don’t need any additional clues to know that rape culture is thriving in America, but just in case you wanted more bad news: police response times to rape cases have gone from bad to worse. In some instances, victims are left waiting for hours for an officer to respond, reports ThinkProgress.
According to officials in Denver, one of the cities criticized for its lag time in addressing rape calls, the blame lands on a lack of funding. As police budgets are continually cut resulting in a smaller police force, there are fewer officers available to respond.
Putting rape victims on the backburner is quite literally a matter of priorities. Police manpower is first awarded to the most life threatening situations or crimes currently in action. Since most rape victims can only report the felony after the fact, they automatically become a lower priority.
Rape investigations are a long enough process even when the police respond promptly. Official hospital examinations require about three to four hours, so keeping the victims waiting an additional couple hours for a cop to appear just so that can start can be trying for someone who has just been through a traumatic experience. In many precincts, a rape exam cannot be administrated until after an officer has questioned the victim.
The wait time is enough to discourage some victims from following through with the process. Denver officials acknowledge that a woman who was left waiting at the hospital for more than two hours after reporting rape finally just left, believing that the authorities did not take her claim seriously.
It’s an even more pitiful state of affairs when you factor in that only a small fraction of victims report rape in the first place. Those who are brave enough to hold their rapists responsible for the assault should not be dissuaded from doing just that – either implicitly or explicitly.
Washington D.C. has faced similar criticisms for the way its police force handles rape cases. After Human Rights Watch found that 170 rape reports had disappeared or were “misfiled” and then not investigated, a panel was formed to address the problems. The panel recommended that an advocate be present during interviews of rape victims and that an expert be trained to oversee sexual assault cases.
Denver, meanwhile, instituted new policies of its own to tackle criticisms against its force. After 90 minutes of no response to a rape call, supervisors are required to send a cop as soon as possible – which still seems like a slow process. One “improvement” that may actually help, however, is that officers are authorized to give a verbal approval to the hospital staff to begin the rape examination before questioning so that the victim isn’t left waiting around for hours.