Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Anonymous Rape Kits Not About Problems With Rape Victims

An AP article begins with:

ELKTON, Md. (AP) — Starting next year across the country, rape victims too afraid or too ashamed to go to police can undergo an emergency-room forensic rape exam, and the evidence gathered will be kept on file in a sealed envelope in case they decide to press charges.

The new federal requirement that states pay for "Jane Doe rape kits" is aimed at removing one of the biggest obstacles to prosecuting rape cases: Some women are so traumatized they don't come forward until it is too late to collect hair, semen or other samples.

This quoted reason for the anonymous rape kits unfortunately and inaccurately puts the fault for the current problem on rape victims.

The reality is that the reluctance to report rape before it is too late to collect forensic evidence is caused by problems in the criminal justice system and by problems in the general responses to those who report rape and it is caused by the continued threat rapists and their allies pose to rape victims.

If a rape victim is pushed into reporting immediately with the price for not reporting immediately being losing important evidence the person who is pushed into reporting may later decide to stop cooperating with the police -- for practical and compelling reasons -- which can cause that case to be incorrectly labeled as a false report when the report was true.

If the police or other investigators are gatekeepers who determine who will and who will not be allowed to get a rape kit collected then the bigotry of individual officers can prevent real rape victims who unquestionably want to report their rapes from having important forensic evidence collected.

Unfortunately, the requirement in some locations to report to the police in order to get a rape kit done also prevents many rape victims from getting the timely medical care they need and deserve.

This bigotry is sometimes linked to who an investigator believes will never be seen as a real rape victim by a jury. If the investigator believes the rape victim was raped but also believes that the criminal justice system will fail that victim, that investigator's resistance feeds into the stereotypes which cause so many rapists to rape with the belief that they are above the law as long as they choose acceptable victims and acceptable methods to succeed at rape.

States can decide how long these anonymous rape kits are kept which could be a real problem if the storage time is too short -- especially when the rape victim is underage but not covered by mandated reporting laws. Many times rape victims don't report immediately because they don't feel safe reporting soon after the rape because of their life circumstances.

A teenager may not feel safe reporting until after that person is out of the school where the rape occurred. Unfortunately, specific and general harassment is common by peers who don't acknowledge that their actions are acts of witness tampering and/or witness intimidation.

A child above the age of mandated reporting who was raped by someone in their family or home may be afraid that they will lose their home and won't feel safe to report until their living situation changes.

I believe Jane Doe rape kits should be kept for one year at a minimum because that gives rape victims time to be in a safer place when they do report.

Not surprisingly I've already seen the Jane Doe rape kits described as bad for justice by those who approve of all the barriers that currently prevent rape victims from immediately reporting to police.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:08 AM   3 comments links to this post


At June 06, 2008 2:16 AM, Blogger TigrMchine said...

What do you mean by "rapists and their allies"? I'm a bit off by the phrasing, are you saying that people knowingly aid and abet rapists? (I mean specifically, to "traditional" rape, not rape camps or other devious inventions of humanity)

At June 06, 2008 7:39 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Yes, people do knowingly make decisions which clearly aid and abet rapists such as the police who prevented a woman from reporting because her rapist was her ex. Unfortunately, that example is far from being the exception.

Rather than basing their actions on the sex crimes law and a respect for the law, those who choose to be allies of rapists base their actions on bigotry.

Most of these people who are allies to most rapists are necessarily vocally against other rapists such as those who rape small children or who rape random respectable women at knifepoint in order to "prove" that they cannot be allies of rapists or because their tolerance for rape is appallingly high.

At February 06, 2009 7:46 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


As you assumed I won't publish your full comment because of liability issues, but I will allow the body of your comment minus the name.

Here it is:

P. D. is in fact a rapist please everyone be aware of him he is a sick individual its too late to catch him I took too long. Was too scared I'm sorry I let him get away. I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do to get him?

Anonymous, first you don't need to apologize. My heart goes out to you. Your fear of reporting is completely logical. Too often the police and the public refuse to believe real rape victims and become hostile toward them.

I don't know if it is too late for you to take action or not. The best way to review your options is to call RAINN's national hotline 1.800.656.hope and talk to a trained victim's advocate.

If you aren't calling from the same jurisdiction where your rape happened you may need to get the direct contact info for the advocates in that area. You definitely want to talk to someone in the jurisdiction where you would need to report.

Depending on the statute of limitations where your rape happened you still may be able to report this man.

Victim's advocates familiar with the sex crimes investigators in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed can help you evaluate whether the investigators in that jurisdiction will be respectful of your report if you make one.

More and more investigators are treating rape victims with respect and competence. The advocate on call may not immediately know which investigator is best in your jurisdiction, but someone in that office should be able to provide you with this information.

Well trained investigators have strategies to deal with cases where the victims were initially too scared to report and felt it was just one person's word against anothers.

Also if this man raped you it's likely that you aren't the only victim. If the police have another report on file which shows a similar MO, your decision to report may bolster their case against this man. They may seek to try multiple rapes together.

Even if the statute of limitations has expired some states such as Washington will sometimes allow the testimony of prior victims in current rape cases to show a pattern of behavior so that it is harder for the defense attorney to succeed at baseless slander against the rape victim.


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