Throughout The U.S., Rape Victims Are Still Being Neglected And Silenced

Thousands of untested rape kits around the country mark our national disregard for women.
08/03/2017 05:25 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2017

End the Backlog is a non-profit organization founded by Law and Order Special Victim’s Unit actor Mariska Hargitay. The organization is dedicated to bringing attention to the untested rape kit backlog in this country and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation.

The sheer number of untested rape kits is astonishing. In my state, there are 2,369 untested rape kits. I am horrified that there could be over 2,000 rapists walking around because rape kits have not been tested. But why? Can you imagine any other crime where evidence is just sitting in a storage locker and not being tested?

In Memphis, a woman was raped in 2001 and the rapist left his dentures at the scene. That’s where they remained in a rape kit untested and not even examined for 16 years. If the police had just looked at the dentures instead of throwing them in a bag and locking them in storage room, they would have been able to solve the case. The rapist’s name was etched inside the dentures. The rapist served time previously for the rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl. While in prison, he was fitted with the dentures and to keep track of them they put his name inside.

With the evidence examined, the rapist plead guilty and was sentenced to 8 years for the 2001 rape. Sadly, at 67, he could get out of prison and rape again.

It’s difficult to imagine why this man was given such a lenient sentence for the first conviction, just 12 years for the rape and murder of a child. Then just 8 years for the second rape. We give harsher sentences for drug related cases. And for a country with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, how could these sentences happen?

  • A Montana man was sentenced to 30 days for the rape of a 14-year-old girl. The judge initially said the teenager was partially at fault.

  • A University of Indiana student was charged with raping two women and allowed a plea deal to lesser charges, receiving one day in jail and one year probation. That’s right one day in jail.

  • Another Montana man was convicted of raping his own 12-year-old daughter and received a sentence of 60 days in jail.

Even with all the awareness, the blame the victim culture persists. “She asked for it,” “she was dressed provocatively,” “she went to his room so she must have wanted it,” “she was drinking so it was her fault” are still the default excuses when women are assaulted. It’s depressing that in 2017, this mentality still exists.

A Slate blogger tweeted to teach your daughters to say “No” firmly, and mean it. He said men sense women’s willingness to yield. And his tweet was met with outrage.

But that’s the mentality a lot of men in this country (a lot of women too); that women are responsible for the actions of men. If we just said “No” and really mean it then the men would stop assaulting us. If they did assault us, then we must not have said “No” firmly enough. Either way, it’s our fault. Women and girls have to be the ones to stop their own assaults because men cannot do this on their own.

I applaud Mariska Hargitay’s organization for their efforts to bring attention to this issue. But her organization should not have to exists. There is always federal and state money for items politicians deem important. The lack of resources devoted to testing rape kits demonstrates that bringing rapists to justice is not their priority.

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