Saturday, July 26, 2008

Priorities (by Phila)

As you may or may not know, roughly 400,000 rape kits remain untested. The ostensible reason is a lack of funds, though Sarah Tofte of Human Rights Watch is undoubtedly correct that the backlog stems from "a failure to treat rape as seriously as other violent crimes."

In 2004, Congress passed a bill mandating the testing of backlogged rape kits. However, as Ms. Tofte notes:
[T]he program has been expanded to allow states to test backlogged DNA evidence from any crime. Even as the proportion of rape victims who report their assaults is increasing, the processing of rape evidence is still backlogged -- and the arrest rate of rapists is decreasing.
One can only imagine the chain of custody issues that could be raised in regards to a rape kit that's several years old. Wouldn't it be strange if this objective evidence ended up becoming as "unreliable" as the unsupported testimony of the women from whom it was taken?

The bill is also complicated by an effort to gather DNA evidence on all felons, and on people who've been arrested but not convicted:
The House version of the reauthorization risks diluting the program's effectiveness by requiring states to expand their DNA databases to include all felons and certain arrestees. Adding people who have not been convicted of any crime to DNA databases raises civil rights and civil liberties concerns, adding unnecessary controversy to the program.
I wonder which of these efforts will receive more attention and funding, ultimately? Tracking down rapists, of course, simply gratifies the lust for revenge of women who -- for all we know -- may've asked to be raped in the first place; it's a way for them to have their cake and eat it too. But expanding our DNA database of arrestees could solve or even prevent all sorts of high-impact crimes, from gas-station holdups in the ghetto to eco-terrorism in suburban developments. I mean, if you're going to throw a bunch of money at a marginal problem like sexual assault, why not get something useful out of it? It's a simple matter of priorities.

Incidentally, the comments on Ms. Tofte's article are about as illuminating as you'd expect, giving our status as a civilized nation. One commenter suggests that women ought to carry little knives, and says that "a sufficiently ruthless and frenzied defense will give the rapist little opportunity to take the weapon away and use it against her." And if not, well...death before dishonor!

Women who don't carry knives, or are insufficiently ruthless and frenzied in their use of them, obviously like the idea of being raped, on some level.