Thursday, August 27, 2009

LA County Promises to Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog

Yesterday it was announced by Supervisor Yarovslavksy that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will commit to fund the testing of every single backlogged rape kit in LA. This will be done within the next two years, with promises to ensure the backlog does not return.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch held a discussion at the FMF West Coast Office. Sarah Tofte spoke about the research HRW has conducted in Los Angeles County, uncovering the 12,000 plus rape kits that just sit untested. More than 450 rape kits have been there so long that the 10 year statue of limitations period to convict has expired.

It begs the question, why doesn't rape matter??

If I was a woman that had just gotten raped, and agreed to undergo a rape kit--an invasive process that can take up to 6 hours--I would want to know that everything was being done to catch the perpetrator . I wouldn't want to wait months, even years, before we knew who the rapist was. I wouldn't want to find out that 3 out of 4 rapists in Los Angeles are never convicted. I wouldn't want to find out that the Sheriff's department may not test my rape kit because they don't believe my boyfriend could have actually raped me.

In acquaintance rape, the police department is sometimes skeptical of the victim's stories. As Sarah Tofte says, "They talk about the [rape] victims’ credibility in a way that they don’t talk about the credibility of victims of other crimes."

It is important to test every rape kit because they not only help identify unknown suspects and confirm known suspects, but also link repeat offenders to different cases as well as exonerate innocent suspects. With one of the worst rape conviction rates in the country, it is incredible news that LA has committed to eliminating their backlog! Onward to the rest of the country!

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