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  1. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

    Can someone explain what the fuck the issue is with getting this shit done? Is it the cost? Is there a significant time investment in rape kits? I mean, I’m not a forensic-anything, and maybe it’s too much to hope for, but I kind of figured you’d swab, translate that shit into an online database, and it would all take less than a week, with maybe a half hour time frame for each person in the assembly line. No?

    Because I cannot come up with a single answer to my first question that isn’t “rape victims are thrown away by society, and not a single fuck is given.”

    1. z
      z February 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

      Is it an election year, by any chance?

      1. Henry
        Henry February 19, 2013 at 12:22 am |

        who gives a shit. sometimes people run for office to fix actual problems, and then actually go about fixing them. As far as I am concerned they should give these prosecutors bonuses.

        1. z
          z February 19, 2013 at 1:17 am |

          Some might say that they should give a shit about raped women at the time, and not as an afterthought.

        2. Tim
          Tim February 19, 2013 at 9:05 am |

          Some might say that they should give a shit about raped women at the time, and not as an afterthought.

          @ z: A fair enough comment as pertains to the police perhaps, but the unprocessed kits were apparently in police custody and the prosecutor’s office didn’t even know about them. And some of those in the prosecutor’s office probably weren’t even there 14 years ago. If not bonuses, then they do at least deserve some credit for working overtime on these.

        3. debra
          debra February 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

          look 1 of those kits are mine i will DONATE my time and scrub floors and kiss ass anything to get this fucking shit done whatever it takes

      2. Donna L
        Donna L February 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |

        z, I’ve known a number of prosecutors, and they’ve all cared very much about raped women. For some of them, that’s a major reason why they do what they do. Your excessive cynicism is misplaced.

    2. Max
      Max February 18, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

      I wholly agree with the spirit of your post and the fact that people are throwing rape victims to the side, which is fucked up. Since you were curious and asked about the process, I will give you some of my limited understanding of rape kit testing that is based on DNA analysis I’ve done on other organisms (microbes in a college lab).

      Doing reactions to purify and produce enough DNA to test takes quite a bit more than the half an hour it does on TV shows. It’s a solid couple days of professional lab work. The media gloss over a lot of facts about forensic biology when writing crime dramas.

      Anyway, that said, spending the money on the lab work necessary to process rape kits should definitely be a priority and it is a shame this happened.

      1. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable February 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

        Couple of things!

        — I don’t watch depressing TV that reminds me of depressing life. I think I’m kind of insulted that you implied I took a work of fiction and used that as my bullshit meter. Maybe you get that a lot, but I cannot find a thing in my post that suggested I took a work of fiction and assumed real life was just like it.

        — I don’t understand what you did in a college lab and you don’t really give enough information for it to follow. Was this college work or professional work? How similar is the process for rape kits? How does it differ? I did excel models in college. As a professional, it literally takes me an eighth of a time to do the stuff I struggled with in college. If it’s a college project, the example means very little to me.

        — 48 hours from the link below is a bit more helpful and makes the backlog even bigger bullshit, because it took until they had 60 years of collective testing to do before they thought it was a problem worth addressing.

      2. Marissa123
        Marissa123 February 22, 2013 at 9:58 am |

        Max, I don’t care how long it takes to test rape kits. Rape is a violent crime, most perpetrators are repeat serial offenders so left free they WILL commit it again and again, and as this article shows, it can predict even more violent crimes such as murder. Why this isn’t a number one priority in our society appalls me. By saying that it isn’t easy or quick to test these, you are also dismissing the serious, life-destroying, and epidemic-scale nature of the crime, a point you cannot cover up by just saying ‘but they should test them anyways.’

    3. Henry
      Henry February 19, 2013 at 12:32 am |

      I second Max’s comments. DNA extraction, PCR, and RFLP analysis costs boatloads of money in lab chemicals. The lab I worked in (not a crime lab) burned more than 10K a week in just supplies. It’s mostly a money issue, in an emergency the FBI can turn a case around in 48 hours, working around the clock. Most cases where there is a test ordered take a few weeks.

      http://www.livescience.com/2330-dna-crime-lab-analysis-tv-reality.html

      1. Tim
        Tim February 19, 2013 at 9:12 am |

        I enjoy the police procedurals quite a bit, especially L&O (the older the episode, the better) but I also realize there is a lot of BS in there and dramatic license they use to speed the plot along. DNA and other forensic testing is one of these. Benson and Stabler will drop off a shirt or something at 10 in the morning, come back to the station after lunch and Capt. Cragen will say, “the DNA test is back. Go pick up so-and-so.” In real life, around here at least, it takes a couple weeks, even in urgent, high-profile cases.

      2. Marissa123
        Marissa123 February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am |

        Rape is happening on an epidemic scale – one in six women according to extremely conservative studies. “It’s too hard and expensive” is bullshit reasoning for something this huge; rape in our society is functioning as a form of terrorism against at least half of the population. Rape is second to only murder.

        The problem is that we as a society are not prioritizing the serious nature of the crime (this is not just on the shoulders of the prosecutors, but a large systemic and economic problem on all levels) and sentiments such as yours are a key part of the problem because they only perpetuate the idea that rape is somehow one of the lesser crimes.

        1. Henry
          Henry February 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

          I think you need to read the whole thread. Just because it is expensive does not mean it is not worth expending. But thanks for putting words in our mouths. Testing the kits costs 1200-1500 per kit. My donation for this project is in, where’s yours?

  2. mxe354
    mxe354 February 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm |

    In February of 1997, a home invader raped Audrey Polk as she lay in bed with her infant daughter and six-year-old son. She immediately called the police, went to the hospital for a rape kit, and continued to follow up with the police until it became apparent that they weren’t interested in pursuing it with any vigor. For more than a decade afterward, she and her children have struggled with life after the attack.

    Yeah, because pursuing a case involving a rapist who raped a woman in front of her children is just a fucking waste of time. Who in the world could ignore such a case? And any case of sexual assault for that matter?

    That story is horrific beyond words. It seriously made me cry by just thinking about it. I’m so glad her assailant is in jail.

    1. jemima101
      jemima101 February 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

      To be honest I am completely confused as to why the magical discovery of a rape kit solved the case mentioned. The victim/survivor says the police showed no interest. Was the only evidence really DNA? I doubt it, seems to me that rape culture has meant these cases have been ignored and now, for what ever reason (and I agree with those saying election year) someone has decided something must be done.

  3. Henry
    Henry February 19, 2013 at 12:17 am |

    So far, 600 kits have been tested, and investigators say that they have discovered evidence of 21 serial rapists.

    It is important to note that this type of criminal is a repeat offender. every kit tested can potentially end a run of several crimes.

    11,000 kits x 1500 = $16.5 million

    You may donate here:

    http://detroitcrimecommission.org/initiatives.html#RapeKit

  4. Henry
    Henry February 19, 2013 at 12:21 am |

    Sorry to double post but, from the original article

    Some of the kits tested have revealed sobering results. One kit from 2002 revealed DNA belonging to a man who was in prison for the murder of three women. The murders had been committed during the seven years the rape kit sat on a warehouse shelf.

  5. Lisa
    Lisa February 19, 2013 at 6:06 am |

    Thank you for sharing this article. Kym Porter is a hero! How many of us, in the face of all of the organizational barriers she faced, would have taken on this challenge and persisted?

  6. Odin
    Odin February 19, 2013 at 10:44 am |

    It’s hella depressing to hear how many kits have gone untested and how many assaults (and even murders!) could have been prevented if our criminal justice system wasn’t so bad at handling rape cases… but it’s heartening to see people trying to fix it.

    Mad props to Kym Porter for fighting the good fight.

  7. megara
    megara February 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm |

    There are several systemic issues that have helped create this pattern (but absolutely don’t excuse the probem).

    One: Crime lab backlogs
    In many states, crime labs (that run the analysis of the kit) have been severely under-resourced, resulting in a large backlog and therefore time delay at the crime lab. So as a police officer/prosecutor, you can submit a kit, knowing that you won’t get any results back for 6 months to a year. I’m not a lawyer, but I do not know that there are time limitations for how long you have between charging a suspect and bringing them to trial. Thus, you can decide to wait for the evidence, and therefore wait to charge the suspect, or proceed, knowing that there’s a good chance you can’t use the results by the time you go to trial.

    Two: Consent defense
    Usually, the primary evidence in a rape kit is to obtain DNA (semen, blood, hair). This is less helpful in cases when the suspect has been identified and is smart enough to plead a consent defese. Combine that with issue one above and there’s less incentive to submit the kit.

    Three: Pervasive lack of accountability and oversight
    Another issue is that rape cases are pervasively under-investigated, period. It’s not just not submitting the kits. Women are discouraged from filing reports, suspect interviews aren’t conducted, other evidence isn’t collected, leads aren’t followed, they assume a victim is uncooperative if they can’t reach her after a couple of attempts–and these things happen quite frequently. Police choose how thoroughly to investigate a case, and then based on whatever investigation they have/have not done, they choose whether to send a case to the prosecutor. In cases where the victim is not viewed as very credible, they have less inclination/incentive to investigate the case thoroughly.This also means that if they didn’t collect any evidence and choose not to send the case forward, it will never see the light of day. Unless there are processes in place whereby others are reviewing the thoroughness of an investigation or an officer’s justification for not sending a case for prosecution, an individual officer can do as good or as poor of a job as they decide and no one will ever know. Most jurisdictions don’t have this level of accountability. A case might get reviewed by a supervisor if a victim or advocate complains, and then the supervisor has the same leeway to make their own judgment call. Given that police officers, like the rest of society, have been exposed to rape myths since birth, this type of leeway helps explain the pervasive under-investigation and underprosecution of these crimes.

    Again–these issues don’t mean it’s ok that rape kits are submitted. Rather, there are serious issues with the ways that rape cases are/are not processed in the criminal justice system.

    1. matlun
      matlun February 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |

      For example in many consent defense cases I think it can actually be correct not to run the DNA test (since there may be no point). There could also be other situations where the police excuse of “justifiable reasons” is actually correct.

      Which makes me a bit confused by the plan to test all the 11000 untested kits. Was there not even a few of them where the prosecutor team judged that there was no need to go through with the testing? Or is the 11000 figure for kits the team judged should have been tested after looking at the cases?

      Obviously, all this does not change the basic issue. Even if there are a few thousand of these that should not have been tested, the remaining ones are still an outrage. It is not the exact number that is the problem.

      1. Henry
        Henry February 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

        They have already identified 21 serial rapists out of 600 kits. So even in a “consent” defense case, where you have mulitple kits with the same “consent” defender, it would be damning evidence that this is in fact a serial date rapist.

        So far, 600 kits have been tested, and investigators say that they have discovered evidence of 21 serial rapists.

        1. tigtog
          tigtog February 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm | *

          Henry, if the same defendant is using the consent defense against multiple complainants, they already know that without the DNA evidence.

        2. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers February 19, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

          Tigtog, if you are exonerated of a crime, the fact that you were charged with it generally cannot be used as evidence against you if you then end up in court for the same crime again.

          So yeah, they *know* that the same defendant has been charged with rape several times, and they *know* he’s used consent as a defense, but if every time he used consent as a defense the jury decided to believe him, the next jury isn’t allowed to know about it. Doesn’t matter if the prosecutor knows if they can’t use it as evidence.

          So actually yeah, being able to say “You say she consented, but your DNA turned up in nine rape kits, are you going to claim that all the women you ever sleep with are lying and claiming you raped them? Not very believable, is that?” would be a lot more effective than “This man was prosecuted for rape nine times and each time he was acquitted”, simply because the first is admissible evidence and the second is not. The only way you get to bring the fact that multiple people have brought charges of rape against the same guy and he has claimed consent in each case is either if you can prosecute them all simultaneously — which generally only happens if women come forward after learning that the guy who raped them was arrested for rape, because the logistics would be very hard to work otherwise — or if you have independent evidence of the multiple rapes that you can present during the trial, because anything he was exonerated for is basically something that legally did not happen.

          If they have the funds to do it, I think it’s right to test them all. If a guy was exonerated on a consent defense nine times, but the tenth time his DNA showed up in the rape kit of a woman who was violently assaulted, you can’t bring up that he was exonerated nine times but you *can* say that his DNA was found in nine other rape kits in addition to this one. And if the reason the kit wasn’t tested is that the victim didn’t want to go through with pressing charges, which is often the reason given the shitty way the cops treat victims of rape, you don’t *need* the victim’s testimony to prosecute if five victims of the same guy turned in rape kits and just one of them is willing to testify.

        3. tigtog
          tigtog February 19, 2013 at 10:33 pm | *

          Alara: good points.

        4. Henry
          Henry February 20, 2013 at 12:42 am |

          ty Alara, and I have to add – in cases of stranger assault the kit is even more valuable at ID’ing perpetrators because all you may have is a witness description and the DNA. A lot of times these perps are in jail for other offenses and have DNA in the system already…a match up could identify the actual criminal and prevent their release from prison.

          I really encourage people to donate to this cause.

        5. matlun
          matlun February 20, 2013 at 2:41 am |

          @Henry

          As I said

          Obviously, all this does not change the basic issue. Even if there are a few thousand of these that should not have been tested, the remaining ones are still an outrage. It is not the exact number that is the problem.

          The cases in the OP clearly shows that not all cases fall into the “justifiable reasons” category, and the moral principle does not change due to the exact number of wrongfully ignored kits.

          My comment was just something that jumped out at me from the article. The numbers looked strange.

          OTOH, it would surprise me if the prosecutor team had not already considered these issues. Since they have much more complete information than we have, for now I will trust their judgment that all 11000 are good candidates for testing.

  8. annalouise
    annalouise February 20, 2013 at 10:38 am |

    I get the criticism here, and I think a simple explanation is that the Detroit police department has been both under-funded and incredibly corrupt for a very long time.

    Kym Worthy has been one of the true heroes in the fight against corruption in the city. She successfully prosecuted the cops who beat Malice Green to death. She went after Kwame Kilpatrick and got him thrown out of office, even though the powers-that-be in the city made it as hard as they could for her. She was one of the few people who took seriously the fact that Kilpatrick was using the police force as his private army and that they obstructed the investigation into the murder of a young woman because it might embarrass the mayor. She was brutalized in the press for it, with all these gross attacks on her sexuality (which she’s private about and is her business, and it’s gross regardless to hear people suggest over and over again that she only went after this corrupt, piggish mayor because she’s a man-hating lesbian)

    This is just part of Kym Worthy’s on-going campaign to help people who would not otherwise get justice. And it’s probably a little showy and grand-standy because she trying to draw attention to how awful this has been. But I think she deserves a lot of credit and it’s kind of a bummer for people who don’t know anything about her or the city or the context to leap to cynical interpretation.

    Not like it isn’t reasonable to have those 99% of the time…but in this case, let’s give this woman her due.

    1. Henry
      Henry February 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm |

      sorry she’s part of the system and therefor evil. some of the commentators here will never accept her until she quits in disgust and becomes a protestor.

      kudos (or vilification) should also go to assistant prosecutor Rob Spada who discovered the untested evidence, and all the unnamed others that volunteered for unpaid overtime to work on this. Also the Detroit Crime Commission – who are passing 100% of the donations straight through to pay for testing.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune February 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

        Yeah. If the whole point of the article was that the kits *hadn’t* reached the prosecutor’s office, I think that blaming the prosecutor (who’s not even been in office for all that time!) for not getting the kits on the go is pretty mean.

  9. currants
    currants February 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm |

    I don’t know whether it’s at all useful, but there are some decent information sources at this link (National Sexual Violence Resource Center).

  10. McMike
    McMike February 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

    Is the police lacking funds or personell to test all of those kits? 10.000 DNA tests, I assume thats a lot of dough.

    1. Henry
      Henry February 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm |

      money. the tests are done by contract labs. the biotech workers could use the jobs too, and for a just cause. but hey we need that joint strike fighter.

  11. SCANDAL (or at least it should be):
    SCANDAL (or at least it should be): February 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm |

    […] look at the Detroit Police Department’s failure to adequately follow through on rape cases (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/02/18/detroit-prosecutor-faces-down-11000-untested-rape-k…). An inspection of the Detroit Police Department’s evidence storage area revealed over 11,000 […]

  12. Rachel W.
    Rachel W. February 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm |

    As one who has grown up in southeastern Michigan and lived here most of my life, I must concur with annalouise. I will not say that sexism had nothing to do with the kits being shoved aside, but it’s only one factor in serious systemic issues with Detroit’s infrastructure.

  13. Rei
    Rei February 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

    But it’s not just Detroit. As of late 2012, there was a backlog of 400,000 untested kits nationwide. 16,000 in Texas. Google “untested rape kits” along with practically any state, and you’ll hear about backlogs, some past, some present.

    1. Henry
      Henry February 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm |

      Not a priority because of sexism for sure. Pressure needs to come from the voters. Would be great to get a large foundation to donate to clear the backlog since our politicians will not appropriate funds for it.

      400K x 1200 = $480,000,000

      The current cost of one F-35 joint strike fighter = $304,150,000 (admittedly they look much cooler than a forensics kit) but I think we can spare 2 of these to properly fund law enforcement.

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