Across the United States, the police who are supposed to be the law enforcers act as hostile gatekeepers who prevent rape complaints from making it past the criminal justice system. The police as gatekeepers of the law can grant or deny anyone entry into the law. In most rape cases, the gatekeeper says that he or she cannot give that person entry although the gate to the law is open. The victims of rape or sexual assault are regularly disbelieved, and the rape kits that are supposed to help in putting the suspected perpetrators to justice are discarded without investigation. An estimated 400 00 rape kits have never been tested. The hair, DNA swabs and descriptive information acquired from the victim about the suspect just lay on dusty shelves of police warehouses or forensic labs. Stories from victims across the US soils suggest that if there is to have a decrease in sexual assault cases, then the numerous obstacles imposed by the police need to be removed; starting with a modification of police practices. Adjustment can be supported by an examination of modern cases and historical record. Messing with rules and laws will yield very little progress as most of the victims have limited access to the criminal justice system. Also, the reform efforts must see to it that the restricted access in rape cases are fixed; that is, the police.
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Before DNA and after DNA are the two ways that define the crime-solving history. In the years before the mid 80’s, solving crimes that required forensic evidence was more often than not impossible. However, after the introduction of forensic evidence, matching crime scenes with their suspected perpetrator(s) grew up to 99 percent. Crime scenes that involved sexual assault became the best suited for applying the DNA testing method as the perpetrator(s) left part of their biological material on the victim. The introduction of DNA testing became a way of convicting murderers and setting free the wrongly accused. A good example that supports this is the case between Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton. A man had broken into Jennifer’s house and raped her at knifepoint. Luckily, she managed to get away and later identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. As much as Ronald claimed he was innocent, he was arrested just by Jennifer’s identification. However, eleven years later, Ronald took a DNA test which then revealed that he was innocent and was set free. The power of a simple DNA test relieved Ronald of his misery.
Despite the fact that DNA testing helps in solving crimes, 400 000 rape kits are yet to be tested in the US. One factor that may have contributed to this is the fact that before its introduction, the police still had numerous cases that required investigation and by the time they started matching forensic evidence from previously convicted criminals DNA, they had a massive accumulation. However, as mentioned earlier, the other factor that contributes to those numbers are the police; the people charged with enforcing the laws. Practices found in police departments suggest that law enforcement is not aimed at punishing and discouraging sexual violence but in monitoring the disputed cultural concept of “rape” (Yung 207). The failure to test rape kits is one example. Only five states in the US make testing mandatory. “Unlike other victims, rape victims are often billed upwards of $1 000 for the invasive, four-to-six hour medical examination yielding the critical evidence related to their attack” (Yung 207). Nevertheless, state police still put those kits aside for even decades. From the above information, it can be concluded that insight and cost reduction is among the factors that contribute to the US ending up with about 400 000 untested rape kits.
As cited in Caitlin’s article; how the US ended up with 400,000 untested rape kits, Berkowitz says that some police pursue the cases that they believe they have a better chance of solving and that others test if the alleged attacker is a stranger. DNA should be used to identify the attacker regardless, and in a case where the victim can identify the assailant, then the issue becomes consent. However, as Berkowitz says, these days the reality is that one will require DNA if you want to prosecute a case. It helps when proving if a suspect is lying or not.
A coin has two faces, and so does the above case. The numbers are mostly contributed to the police and their administration, but on the flip side, part of the reason why the rape kits aren’t tested is that it is not taken seriously. Not many want to come forward and admit that they are victims of rape and others just leave the whole case to the police in the hope that they will solve it. Not following up on field instances contributes to its percentage. In other cases, some women aren’t willing to testify and may not want their kits processed as pointed out by law enforcement agencies.
In conclusion, it is indisputable that rape is a serious offense that mostly went unchecked and in some cases it still is. However, the only way that this criminal act can be put away with is if the society finally acknowledges rape as a serious offense and the assailants are dealt with by the law. This way the number of kits to be used will subsidize in general.
- Cannino, Jennifer, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo. Picking Cotton: our memoir of injustice and redemption. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009. Print.
- Dickson, Caitlin. “How the US ended up with 400,000 Untested Rape Kits.” The Daily Beast 23 Sept. 2014
- Patterson, Debra, and Rebecca Campbell. “The problem of untested sexual assault kits: Why are some kits never submitted to a crime laboratory?” Journal of interpersonal violence 27.11 (2012): 2259-2275
- Yung, Corey Rayburn. “Rape Law Gatekeeping.” BCL Rev. 58 (2017): 205.