Ending the Backlog

11 years ago, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) launched its initial campaign to reduce the massive backlog of rape cases, yet in 2015 400,000 rape kits still remain unprocessed. At the movement’s inception in 2001, the efforts to reduce the backlog received substantial press and congressional attention causing Congress to pass the monumental Debbie Smith Act in 2004, which permitted local and statewide governments to analyze DNA evidence collected in sexual assault cases without federal attention. This act was named for Debbie Smith, a rape survivor whose rapist was identified through the intervention of DNA analysis.

Although the Debbie Smith Act was highly significant in anti-rape legislature, the sheer magnitude of today’s rape kit backlog proves that it is not enough. In many cases these rape kits are the only evidence linking a perpetrator to their crime, as they contain DNA collected from the victim’s body by a certified nurse. Despite the importance of this evidence, hundreds of thousands of rape cases remain in limbo due a multitude of reasons such as police inaction and insurance expenses, while criminals are able to walk the streets with no repercussions for their actions, giving them the opportunity to assault their next victims.

In the case of Valerie Neumann, a RAINN spokesman and rape survivor, the forensic evidence collected from her rape still remains untested even two years after her attack. Consequently, Neumann has been unable to pursue justice for the crimes against her. Neumann’s attacker still maintains that he did not have sex with her, despite the semen that the exam revealed.

Almost three years after the assault, Neumann remains a passionate advocate for ending the backlog, as she believes that the unprocessed rape kits are indicative of the justice system’s apathy towards rape victims.  As a response to the court deeming her case unwinnable despite the strong evidence, Neumann says, “I feel like they didn’t do their job to protect me and to protect everyone else.”

Shockingly, the cost of processing rape kits is somewhere in the range of $1,500 and as a result many members of the police and insurance companies make judgment calls about which kits get priority testing, or even get tested at all. These practices are some of the major contributing factors in the substantial backlog that has accumulated over the years and the high prevalence of rape in the United States. For these compelling reasons, RAINN has urged the United States Government to make ending the extensive backlog a national priority and to rethink how we view rape and sexual assault in this country.

The slow processing of rape kits is not the only challenge faced by sexual assault victims, a group that makes up roughly 1/6th of the American female and 1/33rd of the American male population. Unlike other victims, people who report rape are frequently ridiculed or berated, the most common reaction being disbelief. The media also perpetuates victim blaming through the style in which rapes are reported. In a case of an 11 year old girl who was gang raped, the New York Times insinuated that the girl was responsible for the crimes committed against her because she wore makeup and acted older than her age.

Moreover, the many media outlets actively work to frame rapists in a sympathetic light as if they had almost no choice other than to commit sexual assault for a bevy of reasons – most commonly, the attractiveness of their victims. In the case of Lara Logan, a CBS journalist working in Egypt who was raped several times by protesters, many fellow reporters choose to only focus on Logan’s appearance as the cause of the crime. An LA Weekly writer described Logan, saying “‘Hollywood good looks’? And how else do Egyptians celebrate anyway but with a gang assault? It’s not like she deserved it, but well, she is hot, right?”

Victim shaming and the rape kit backlog are just two significant obstacles faced by rape victims in modern America that are too often ignored or even propagated by the media. In order to ensure that rape is treated as seriously as any other crime, it is imperative that rape victims are treated with the utmost compassion by the public and that their cases are treated with highest level of attention by the justice system so that these victims are able to begin the healing process knowing that the full support of the country is behind them.


— Colette Juran, Staff Writer 

Photography credit- http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/end-the-backlog-of-untested-rape-kits-us/

Posted by on January 28, 2015. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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