More and more criminal cases illustrate both the opportunities and the drawbacks of DNA testing in long-unsolved rape cases at a time when the Bush administration is pushing a five-year, $755 million DNA initiative aimed at clearing tens of thousands of cold cases involving rapes, homicides and kidnappings, reports USA Today. The plan aims to bring justice to victims, take violent criminals off the streets and identify cases in which a person may have been wrongly convicted.
DNA gives authorities unprecedented power to identify predators, but it also can awaken frightening memories, some decades old, in victims and their families. Testifying at a rape trial means that a victim’s friends, family members and co-workers could learn for the first time that she was raped. Even when victims are willing to testify, prosecutions can be blocked if statutes of limitation for filing charges – often six years after the crime – have expired. That can place a rape survivor in a painful position: learning that DNA testing has identified the name and criminal record of the man who raped her, and then watching helplessly as he goes unpunished.