Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Florida Law Makes Getting Rape Kit Less Traumatic

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Five women in Tallahassee have taken advantage of a new state law that allows women who have been raped to get a forensic exam at no cost without reporting the crime to police. [...]

Five trained nurses employed by Refuge House perform the exams at the hospital. The nurses give the evidence to the Tallahassee Police Department, which stores the sexual-assault kits and labels them with a number if the woman does not want
to release her name. The kits stay there in case the woman decides she wants to file a report.

Rick Courtemanche, the Police Department's legal adviser, said when a report is filed, it is cross-referenced with the kit's serial number. The kit is then sent to the crime lab for DNA testing.

This change in law is an important one since it doesn't pressure rape victims into reporting before getting a forensic exam and it doesn't discourage rape victims who can't afford to pay for the exam but who aren't sure if they will file a police report.

The unfortunate reality is that not all police officers are informed allies to all those who have been raped. Even when everyone in the police department is respectful, the process of reporting and working to see justice done can be traumatic and disruptive to the victim's life. Victims deserve the right to delay reporting or to decline reporting.

The other benefit of this law change is that it will make rapists uneasy even when they are not being actively investigated in the days immediately following the rape. Many rapists depend on their victims not reporting in time for DNA evidence to be collected.

States and other jurisdictions that don't already have a law like Florida's need to change their laws.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:07 AM   4 comments links to this post


At October 21, 2007 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At October 21, 2007 2:23 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, thanks for the link. I found this section enlightening:

The AP discovered efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.

That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren't likely to be believed in a tough spot.

I could definitely see how a student would want a rape kit done but wouldn't report what happened to police until school was over out of the reasonable fear that reporting immediately would harm the victim more than the perpetrator.

At October 21, 2007 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are welcome, however I did not expect you to derail the thread. I thought you might find the cnn report useful for one of your future articles. Anyway...

What struck me most was the 1 in 10 stat. I had to ask how many teachers, then, do not get caught and eventually move up into the schools' administrations. Could some "mobile molesters" be a result of a guilty administrator with an unspoken wish not to risk himself getting caught in the investigation? Are the excuses of lawsuits and scandal sometimes a cover for yet another criminal?

Deep background checks with periodic reviews are common for government employees who work in national security. Why not extend the same degree of evaluation to our country's greatest resource?

At October 21, 2007 5:10 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I'm working on a post about the AP investigation and will move the conversation to that post.


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