CNN recently reported that, nationwide, over 400 rape kits were destroyed by police departments before the statute of limitations expired or before prosecution. According to the report, 80% of the kits were never tested for DNA and kits were kept in police evidence lockers for weeks or months after receiving them. This has been occurring since 2010, and only now is it being investigated completely.
The investigation shows disturbing stereotypes that law enforcement has used on rape victims coming in. When examining how police interviewed victims, investigators looking into the disposal of rape kits noted that the language used by law enforcement insinuated that victims were asking for it. They referred to the rape as having sex, asked if the victims had an orgasm, and focused more on analyzing the victim’s behavior rather than the perpetrator’s. This information was compiled from nine different agencies, from countless cases. From other agencies, the report analyzed that police officers asked invasive questions such as “Did you say no?” “Why didn’t you call the police right away?”. Some victims declined to prosecute their suspected perpetrator. In all these cases where law enforcement received answers that did not fit in the bill of immediately wanting to go to the police station, to prosecute, and did not show the proper emotions that law enforcement deems rape victims have, then the victims coming in are ruled as lying or being deceptive.
This stereotypical mindset is not limited to adult victims. In one Nevada case mentioned in the report, a seven year old child was being interviewed. Despite providing the exact story, the child looked away when discussing this with an officer. The officer ruled the child as being deceptive and informed the parents to take their child to a psychologist. About 47 rape kits for children and teens were destroyed and 39 were untested.
In the past few years, the #MeToo movement has received national coverage. People ranging from celebrities such as musician R. Kelly, chef Mario Batali, and athlete Cristiano Ronaldo have been accused. Professionals accused have been suspended, or fired from their work. It looked as if change was happening. But companies and organizations after a year of this movement are not bettering the environment completely — male office workers are nervous about hiring women or being alone in an interview with them fearing claims of sexual misconduct. The latest that the movement has done that has achieved national attention was when Time’s Up, an organization dedicated to fight sexual harassment or abuse int he workplace, had encouraged stars to wear all black and a pin for the Golden Globes and stars to carry a white rose at the Grammy’s. This provided solidarity, but not a push to truly change the workplace. The #MeToo movement is not in the forefront of the news today as it was a year ago, but this report on rape kit disposals brings up the prevalence of sexual assault in America and the attitudes associated with it. When facing sexual harassment or abuse, activists or those speaking up claimed they are treated as if the attack was consensual sexual activity if they did not act a certain way, come to the police immediately, or prosecute. They have been called liars or deceptive, wanting to forget about a sexual encounter they agreed to but regretted after. This report is linked with the #MeToo movement because they both are efforts to show others how sexual harassment and assault are common incidents that need to be discussed more. And hopefully this report will help bring more change, because sexual harassment and assault need to be treated better than by asking questions that victim-blame and throw out rape kits that can help offenders be captured and wrongly accused people to be freed.