Rape Kits Hold The Key To Closure

Is it worth a $1,500 investment to keep a rapist from attacking again? Judging from the number of rape kits that are backlogged due to lack of funds, apparently, it's too high a price to pay for women's safety.

CBS News recently concluded a five month investigation into why rape kits (the swabs from body cavities and pieces of clothing worn at the time of the attack) are left to gather dust on the shelves. The results are infuriating:

At least twelve major American cities: Anchorage, Baltimore, Birmingham, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Phoenix, San Diego said they have no idea how many of rape kits in storage are untested.

Police departments told us rape kits don't get tested due to cost - up to $1,500 a kit — a decision not to prosecute, and victims who recant or are unwilling to move forward with a case.

Some salient points about rape culture are also made in the piece:

Psychologist David Lisak from the University of Massachusetts has spent twenty years studying the minds of rapists.

"Somehow all we can do is take the statement from the victim. Take the statement from the alleged perpetrator and then throw up our hands because they are saying conflicting things," he said. "That's not how we investigate other crimes." [...]

"Predators look for vulnerable people and they prey on vulnerable people," Lisak said. "And if, as a criminal justice system, we're going to essentially turn from any victim who was drinking or any victim who was in some way vulnerable - we're essentially giving a free pass to sexual predators."

Thankfully, many districts are waking up to the fact that this issue needs both attention and resources. Oakland, New York City, and Los Angeles are leading the charge to eliminate backlog and process the kits quickly and efficiently.

The results are stunning. Today New York City's arrest rate for rape is 70 percent - triple the national average.

There can be hope for the estimated 160,000 women who are raped each year to experience justice. All it takes is for states to prioritize our issues.


Exclusive: Rape in America: Justice Denied
[CBS News]