Why are Rape Kits Getting Backlogged?

By: Athena Brown 
If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you might have come across this little jewel:

Where Samantha Bee comes to the aid of 3rd Wavers everywhere, reinvigorating their faith in the myth of rape culture by bringing up a topic that is years old, and of course presenting it the way that fits the narrative that most of us are familiar with at this point.Lets get straight to it.Why are there so many untested rape kits?BECAUSE PENIS SEXISM PRIVILEGE PATRIARCHY CULTURE!  (Of course)

The US Department of Justice released a study in 2011, produced in part by the Attorney General, detailing the problems surrounding the use of rape kits in criminal prosecution. You can see the report here: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/233279.pdf .

The opening line of the report…

—– —–
Untested sexual assault evidence is being discovered in police evidence rooms all across the country.
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Straight away, this establishes the issue. The report goes on to discuss the particulars, but just as we’ve seen in the wage gap myth, the question of “why” can very seriously change what this all means. So what’s really the cause of this?

There are a few reasons why rape kits (referred to in the report as sexual assault kits, or SAKs) are handled so poorly.

From page 6 of the report:

—– —–
It is unknown how many unanalyzed SAKs there are nationwide. There are many reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is that tracking and counting SAKs is an antiquated process in many U.S. jurisdictions. A recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ) survey found that four in 10 of the nation’s law enforcement agencies — 43 percent — do not have a computerized system for tracking forensic evidence, either in their inventory or after it is sent to the crime lab.
—– —–

Also, from the same page:

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Not all evidence collected in an alleged sexual assault is going to be probative. In cases where “consent” is an issue (the suspect admits sexual contact but maintains it was consensual), detectives may conside that the SAK does not add any important information to the investigation. Evidence also may not be sent to a lab for analysis if charges against the alleged perpetrator have been dropped or the suspect has pled guilty.
—– —–

Some additional reasons:

—– —–Rape kit
Forty-four percent of the law enforcement agencies said that one of the reasons they did not send evidence to the lab was that a suspect had not been identified.
—– —–

– and –

—– —–
Fifteen percent said that they did not submit evidence because analysis had not been requested by a prosecutor.
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It’s also important to point out that during this same investigation, it was found that the police had also not submitted forensic evidence, including DNA, fingerprints, firearms (that’s right, actual weapons) and tool-marks to crime lab in 18% of unsolved rape cases, but also in 14% of unsolved homicides, and 23% of unsolved property crimes. This very heavily blurs the possibility that police are selectively not submitting SAKs involved in rape cases, and strongly implies that it’s due to a systemic failure and points to administrative issues.

The report goes on to list numerous other causes for why SAKs sit idle. Over 20% of officers surveyed said evidence was not submitted because they didn’t know if or how the evidence would help. This came from mostly very small departments (having 25 or fewer officers – think Andy Griffith and the town of Mayberry); in other words, the cops were just stupid, and lacked proper training. They literally may not have understood how DNA evidence works, and that the crime labs have an interconnected computer system that can identify suspects without an identity already at hand.

Case in point:

—– —–
Policies and practices for evidence retention vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with one in five agencies saying that they were not sure whether they had such policies.
—– —–

When a department doesn’t know what it’s own policies are, you’re not dealing with the sharpest tool in the shed.

Back to more reasons: 11% said they didn’t bother because the crime labs could not produce results in time, and 6% said the crime labs wouldn’t accept new evidence due to backlogs. In fact, the National Institute of Justice has provided a block grant to the Los Angeles police department just so they could have money to start processing some of these SAKs!

But but but…. PATRIARCHY RAPE CULTURE PRIVILEGE MEN HATE WOMEN BECAUSE PENIS!!! – Yes, we know, facts for 3rd Wave Feminists are like the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway. “Welcome to 3rd Wave, where shit’s made up and the facts don’t matter!”

As for the issues with rape kits, it’s all pretty f*cked up, and I think we can agree on that. However, nowhere in the report is it found that any significant portion of these SAKs were left sitting on the shelves in a deliberate effort by police to avoid prosecuting rape crimes. I mean there are almost as many homicides and property crimes have been treated the same way, because the same problems within the system are causing those too.

And why on earth, as Samantha Bee pointed out, are police departments DESTROYING rape kits???!! – it’s simple. Cases can be canceled for any number of reasons. Sometimes the victim withdraws the charges. Sometimes the suspect is found innocentthrough other means without using the rape kit. Other times the suspect is found guiltythrough other means without using the rape kit.  Still other times the investigators simply conclude that no new information will come from the SAK, and then there’s other outlying reasons – like maybe the rapist dies.  Whatever the reason, you do not need to keep the rape kit FOREVER. There’s limited space on the police evidence room shelves, so when a case is ended, the evidence is generally cleared out.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty more discussions on the interwebs where 3rd Wavers decry living in a horrible hell hole like the United States, where 5 out of 1 women are raped every 20 minutes (or whatever crazy statistic they come up with next) and “rape kits aren’t tested because patriarchy!”  Go ahead and link this page into the discussion, sit back, and watch he heads explode.

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