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.