Will Rape-Testing Evidence Push More Cops to Believe Women?

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Photo by Charlotte Cooper

Since more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit in 2009, Detroit and other jurisdictions across the U.S. have shipped tens of thousands of kits to labs for testing.

The results have upended assumptions about sexual predators, showing that serial rapists are far more common than many experts had previously believed, The Atlantic reports. The deeper problem is a criminal-justice system in which police officers continue to disbelieve women who say they’ve been raped, even in the age of the #MeToo movement and when DNA testing can confirm many allegations.

From the moment a woman calls 911, a rape allegation becomes more likely to slide into an investigatory crevice.

Police may try to discourage the victim from filing a report. If she insists on pursuing a case, it may not be assigned to a detective. Even then, it will likely close with little investigation and no arrest. If an arrest is made, the prosecutor may decline to bring charges.

Each year, about 125,000 rapes are reported in the U.S. There are some false reports, but in 49 out of every 50 cases, the alleged assailant goes free, often to assault again. Rape is by far the easiest violent crime to get away with.

In Cleveland, where a serial rapist had been stalking since the mid-1990s, police accumulated 7,000 untested rape kits. Authorities finally began to send them for analysis, and in 2013, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty created a task force devoted to reinvestigating cases.

“It was much more fruitful than we ever in our wildest dreams imagined,” recalls Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, then state Attorney General. Some weeks, the task force would announce 20 new DNA matches.

By now, prosecutors have indicted nearly 750 rapists in cold cases and convicted more than 400 Detroit, which got a later start, has convicted 175 men.

Additional Reading:

Kentucky Will Use ‘Rapid DNA’ Testing to ID Rape Suspects

Funding of Rape-Kit Testing Leads to 1,000 Arrests in NYC

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