Monday, April 07, 2008

Why Silencing Or Controlling Rape Survivor Expression Is So Dangerous

In my last 2 posts about the "I was raped" t-shirt, I spoke harshly about those who try to suppress, control or mock the communication of rape survivors. I won't apologize for doing so and my harsh response has very little to do with me even though these people are attacking people like me.

I feel so strongly about the issue of survivors' right to speak out because rape survivors deserve to be treated respectfully and because it directly relates to the reasons that so many of those who become rape victims immediately refuse to report their rapes to the police and refuse to get rape kits done. When someone is raped, they will remember the backlash against rape survivors who dared to speak up.

These rape victims will remember the mocking tone of these comments at Gawker and other similar discussions online and offline.

Some of the rape victims who will be scared away from reporting their rapes will be among the 90% of rape victims who are slandered by those who declare that most rape victims are the only one's who are responsible for their being raped. For the mockers and "real" rape opponents this is likely seen as a good thing.

But some of the rape victims scared away from reporting will have been attacked by strangers while the rape victims did everything they were supposed to do to protect themselves from rape.

Those who are disdainful of rape survivors who speak out will deny their influence in the estimated 62 percent of rapes and sexual assaults that aren't reported (per the Department of Justice).

This influence is why this Baltimore Sun's story is so relevant.

For years, authorities have faced a serious problem in sexual assault cases: Victims often do not report the crime for several days, and by then, it's too late to gather crucial medical evidence. Now two Maryland counties are experimenting with so-called "Jane Doe" rape examination kits, which allow victims to have DNA and other evidence from an assault collected and stored, without involving police. The materials are sealed and stored in case the victim changes her mind and reports the attack. Victims' advocates say the new program -- which will become available statewide in January -- gives victims time to recover from the initial trauma of a sexual assault and to carefully weigh a decision about pursuing criminal charges. [...]

The statewide expansion of Jane Doe programs, now available in Cecil and Allegany counties, was triggered by a federal initiative. States that don't adopt such programs by Jan. 9 will lose some federal funds.

While this change is important and needed, this change will make only a small difference in the rate of reporting rape to the police. Only when there is a widespread backlash against those who hurl insults at rape survivors for speaking up or for doing something the insulters don't approve of will the majority of rape victims decide to report their rapes.

The main improvement I would like to see in this Jane Doe reporting is to have these "Jane Doe" rape kits processed so that law enforcement can see patterns in sexual violence such as when the same offender's DNA shows up in multiple unrelated rape kits.

If there is a pattern among Jane (or John) Doe reports then the police should be able to send a message to those rape victims through the hospital which collected that evidence.

Unidentified stranger rapists or rapist/murderers who are acknowledged as highly dangerous and who are the focus of intense investigations may also be raping those they know and if these victims of that serial rapist assume -- often rightly under our current system -- that their reports will be ignored and their rape kits will go unprocessed because they know this rapist then so-called harmless backlash against rape survivors is clearly anything but harmless.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:28 AM   1 comments links to this post


At April 07, 2008 2:47 PM, Blogger Holly/Admin said...

Thank you Marcella, good for you!


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