The global war against women: rape ignored

I’m putting this angering story (No Longer Ignored, Evidence Solves Rape Cases Years Later – from the New York Times’ Erik Eckholm − about how Memphis cops failed to test rape kits− squarely into this category because only a condescending and demeaning attitude toward women could possibly lead to:

 MEMPHIS — Meaghan Ybos was 16 and had just arrived home from school when a man in a ski mask held a knife to her throat and raped her.

The man said he would kill her if she called the police, but she did so anyway. That led to barrages of skeptical questions, Ms. Ybos said, and the excruciating collection of evidence from her body, gathered into what is commonly known as a rape kit.

“I felt so vulnerable being laid out on a table, with all my clothes off and in a bag and all the swabs and brushes and combs,” she recalled. But at least, she figured, the police would use the swabs and hair samples to help catch the rapist.

They did not. Like hundreds of thousands of other rape kits across the country containing evidence gathered from victims, that of Ms. Ybos lay untested for years on a storeroom shelf. [My emphasis]

The reasons for the backlog, experts say, include constraints on finances and testing facilities, along with a slow recognition among investigators that even when the offender is known, DNA testing might reveal a pattern of serial rapes. And too often, women’s advocates say, the kits went untested because of an uncaring and haphazard response to sexual assault charges.

The evidence was gathered in 2003, several years after DNA testing had become a viable, valuable investigative tool. Not acceptable, though, was the negligence of the Memphis law and order community. Ms. Ybos and another young woman who had been raped are suing the city.

Over the last decade, reports of large rape-kit backlogs have surfaced, often after investigations by news reporters or advocacy groups. But because many cities have resisted looking too hard or have even destroyed untested kits over time, the extent of the problem is unknown, said Sarah Tofte, director of policy at the Joyful Heart Foundation, a New York group that aids victims of sexual assault and is now advising Detroit and Memphis.

“What we know about the extent of backlogs around the country is still less than what we don’t know,” said Ms. Tofte, saying it appears likely that hundreds of thousands of kits still lie on shelves untested. Some of the rape kits were collected in the 1980s, before DNA analysis was fully developed, to establish blood types, something of limited use in court. But in the 1990s and after — as the technology improved and the F.B.I. set up the Combined DNA Index System, or Codis, to allow matching — a large share of kits were still not processed.

I put these paragraphs in because when I worked for lawyers I knew slightly Sarah Tofte and thought she was a terrific person. So let this be a recommendation to anyone who wants to avail herself of Sarah’s help.


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