Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting away with rape

From the Houston Chronicle, a news report from the Los Angeles Daily News, Oct. 25, 2008, 8:29PM, written by Rachel Uranga:
Backlog of 7,000 untested rape kits swamps LAPD
Many cases are at risk because of a 10-year statute of limitations

...There is a backlog of more than 7,000 rape cases, and City Controller Laura Chick blasted the department in an audit for leaving thousands of victims without justice. More than 200 cases are in danger of reaching the statute of limitations for testing.

Takes longer than on TV
But ask any of the more than two dozen criminalists who work in the lab what the holdup is, and you'll get variations on the same answer: It's a lot harder to analyze DNA than it looks on TV.

"The public's perception of it is based on what they see in television or on the news," Blanton said last week. "That is not going to give you a full understanding of the complexity of it, of the legal requirements you have to follow, of the guidelines and protocols."
So it's the public's fault. M'yeah. Sure. Throw us another red herring. Who decides what funds go where?
Even though the number of reported rapes in Los Angeles has steadily declined over the past few years, the number of rape kits that have yet to be tested has grown from roughly 3,300 five years ago to more than 7,000 today.

After 10 years, if a kit is not tested, it's no longer admissible in court. But if it's tested within two years, there's no statute of limitations for when the evidence can be submitted.

The main problem is that the LAPD never staffed the lab to deal with so many cases. But there are other factors.

In about 2000, the department ordered analysts to keep every shred of cell evidence in rape cases, just in case they might need to test it. Before the change, rape kits were regularly purged from the property division, with the permission of an investigating officer.

And as DNA science became more exact, the criminalist's job grew not only harder but longer.

Winding route to DNA
LAPD Chief William Bratton has said there simply isn't enough money, and though the city has approved the addition of 16 criminalists, there is still no funding. As it is now, the division can't keep up with the current DNA case demand, 80 percent of which are rapes. [Italics mine.]
First, it's inexcusable. Heckuva job, LA! Second, is there a backlog due to a lesser priority in funding investigations into sexual violence against women? WTF is the mayor and the police chief going to do about the backlog? Ignore it?
Meanwhile, rapists go loose to rape again.

The LA Daily News blog added this detail:
At a City Hall news conference with women's-rights advocates, [City Controller Laura Chick] said the LAPD should find the money within its more-than-$2 billion budget to hire more criminalists and aim to clear the backlog within three years.

"Today, there are 7,000 women out there without a voice," Chick said. "There are 7,000 victims without justice."
Imagine if women who don't report their rapes, raised their hands. LA can't be the only major metro facing a rape-kit processing backlog. A few seconds googling proves they are not. Via WashPost in July:
The backlog of untested evidence gained national attention in 2001 when Debbie Smith, a rape victim, testified before Congress. The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program was started in 2004 with the goal of processing the nearly 400,000 untested rape kits nationwide. But the program has been expanded to allow states to test backlogged DNA evidence from any crime. Even as the proportion of rape victims who report their assaults is increasing, the processing of rape evidence is still backlogged -- and the arrest rate of rapists is decreasing....

...States had long claimed that money was the obstacle to processing more rape kits. Over the past four years, Congress has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for states to conduct DNA testing on evidence from rape crime scenes. Last year, 46 states, the District and Puerto Rico received grants totaling more than $43 million. But the backlog stems from more than a lack of money. The dynamics that contributed to the backlog, chiefly a failure to treat rape as seriously as other violent crimes, have been re-created in the way states spend the grants. [Emphasis added.]
More stats and disheartening news at the WashPost link, a story written by Sarah Tofte and buried on page A21. Not only is rape of lesser concern, but authorities have redirected tax dollars -- our tax dollars -- originally allocated to address rape-kit backlogs.

Don't overlook this factoid: of DNA evidence collected by LAPD, 80% involved rape!
My heart goes out to the women who have a high-probability of justice denied and those who may yet sadly experience rape because law enforcement let perps get away, our government reneges the pledge, "justice for all."

The institutions of law enforcement, the judicial system, Congress, and state governments provide four examples of the many ways that men get away with rape.
POSTSCRIPT: I have a breather from the death in my family to check in with favorite bloggers. If you haven't been following Anglachel's recent commentary focused on misogyny and all its forms, e.g, sexual violence, hate speech, the lack of attention to solving the problem, how racism deserves attention but misogyny is "excusable," plus more, and men's denial and ho-hum response, go read here and here and here for starters.

I'm a very time-starved individual (and insomniac) at the moment beyond the family emergency and can't add much depth. A few posts from my archive demonstrate that the war on women is real and personal to me (that's another tale). What I can do with relative ease and on a regular basis is cut and paste, point out newsworthy stories and white papers. It takes a few seconds to google.
All you awake men who love women are excused that's if you're helping us to solve misogyny in its variant manifestations. Options can range from activism to being a role model within your sphere of influence. Joseph at Cannonfire calls out lickspittle hate of the Blog Boyz as do our allies of the mighty Corrente building.

The spectrum of participation is broad, so c'mon! Join in, fellas! We females need your help and you can impact your male peers and family members in ways we can't to nip the toxic bud before it blooms. As I write this invitation, I'm skeptical that but a very few men will heed the call, that I'm naive to how most men won't acknowledge their privileged status or relinquish share it. Maybe wasting pixels.

Prove me wrong.

UPDATE: CLD of SoapBoxBlog kindly informed me that Jeff Fecke, whom I had mentioned, no longer blogs at Shakesville. Obviously, I need to get out more often. Revised text accordingly, added links, in a hurried rush to deal with family stuff.

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