Rape Matters – Catching Rapists Does Too

by Diane Dimond on April 11, 2016

Mounds of Rape Kits Waiting for Testing

Mounds of Rape Kits Waiting for Testing

So get this. Top justice officials have figured out a way to make the bad guys finance programs that help solve crimes. It’s such a unique solution to a long standing problem that I just have to share.

The District Attorney’s office in Manhattan – a jurisdiction that includes one of the preeminent financial centers of the world — is in a matchless position to collect billions of dollars from international banks that concoct schemes to get around U.S. sanctions.

For example, the French bank officials at BNP Paribas were forced to admit they illegally moved hundreds of millions of dollars through New York banks for clients in terror-sponsoring countries like Iran and Sudan. For threatening the security of our nation’s banking system and breaking our sanctions the French bank was fined more than $8.8 billion in penalties and criminal forfeiture.

Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance's Great Idea

Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance’s Great Idea

District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., working with the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, has successfully prosecuted seven similar cases and has already raked in about $12 billion. So, what happened to all that money? It went into a special fund that’s now doling out awards to cash poor and very grateful law enforcement departments across the country.

The windfall is funding several different crime fighting initiatives but the one that caught my eye was the award of $38 million to 20 states earmarked for DNA testing of backlogged rape kits. It’s enough funding to clear out more than 56,000 sexual assault kits that have gone untested, some of them for years. The money will help hire more lab techs and investigate leads after results come in.

I’ve written frequently here about how law enforcement has missed the boat in not making this a top priority. Rapists rarely have just one victim, according to experts. While it is hard to quantify the activity of these often stealthy criminals one often quoted study examined 41 known serial rapists who admitted they were responsible for at least 837 violent rapes and over 400 attempted rapes. That’s more than 30 crimes per rapist!

Untested Rape Kits Spark Demonstrations Nationwide

Untested Kits Spark Protests Nationwide

Among the excuses given in the past for not testing rape kits: The suspect plead guilty, the witness was too afraid or traumatized to testify thus cancelling a trial or the case was non-prosecutable.

But (shouting here) NONE OF THAT MATTERS! Test the rape kit, for goodness sakes, because the DNA findings could very well solve other cold cases. It could help put these predators in prison!

All rape kit contents – like left behind hair, semen, skin cells and saliva – are tested to identify the attacker’s DNA. That profile is then entered into the national data base called CODIS – short for Combined DNA Index System – and detectives across the country can access the system to see if their rape evidence matches any past sex attack.

Thousands of rapists have been caught over the years thanks to CODIS. Sometimes simply tracking the location of where the DNA was deposited is enough to catch a rapist. Sometimes police discover the guilty party is already serving time. That, in turn, has brought immeasurable piece of mind to victims. Instead of cowering at home or looking over their shoulder when they go out they can finally feel safe.

Mariska Hargitay Pushes for Rape Kit Testing

Mariska Hargitay Pushes for Rape Kit Testing

I don’t know who inspired who but as the Manhattan District Attorney announced the $38 million grant he was joined by the Department of Justice which kicked in another $41 million to try to finally catch up on the nation’s sexual assault kit backlog.

Something tells me the initiative came together with a big assist from the victim’s rights group A Joyful Heart, founded by actress Mariska Hargitay. She portrays NYPD sex crimes detective Olivia Benson on the TV series Law and Order SVU. She’s been a tireless advocate for timely kit testing for years now. Her organization reports, however, that experts estimate there are still, “hundreds of thousands of untested kits in police and crime lab storage throughout the country.”

There’s still a lot of catching up to do. And as Hargitay puts it, “To me, the rape kit backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society. Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters.”

Yes. It does. And understand that violent rapists often commit other crimes — burglaries, drug and gun crimes, even murders. It has to be a national priority to test these kits within days not years. The need to get these sickening offenders off the street is a no-brainer.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Juan April 11, 2016 at 9:07 am

http://www.TruthFinder.com is a fine updated website system that can really help identify local sex-offenders in every city, town, state, etc. .
I hope this info can be resourceful to this web page. God Bless. -Juan

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 10:19 am

Facebook Friend Robert B. Reno writes:

“We use “signal 19″ as code for rape because even though our radios are encrypted some people have descramblers. I HATE when I hear that go out. I’ve seen a lot of horrible things over the years in my career and not much gets to me anymore but that’s one. Especially if it’s a kid.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 10:19 am

Facebook Friend Joya Colucci Lord writes:

“Thank you, Diane, for bringing this serious issue to light. Sharing this important article with my network. I hope that others will do the same.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

Facebook Friend Bonnie Dudley writes:

“Western Culture has become so weak they have generally quit protecting our women and children as we are witnessing in Europe with the migrant rape epidemic….our men have been so emasculated by the women’s movement, they don’t care.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

Joya Colucci Lord replies:

“That is an interesting perspective, Bonnie. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you may have something there. I will ponder your words.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

Facebook Friend Patty Gibbons writes:

“I’m going to sound like I’m just copying what Joya has already said, but THANK YOU, Diane Dimond!!! I am absolutely sharing this and hope this keeps building momentum!!!”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Facebook Friend Nancy Robel (Santa Barb Co. Sheriff’s) writes:

“That’s wonderful because the backlog does not come about because law enforcement doesn’t care. In our department it was because The DOJ was processing evidence for too many agencies and had to prioritize processing. Our university girls would report a rape but then would request staying anonymous AND were given the option to not prosecute. So guess, what, all that DNA evidence went untested and we would just store the evidence forever. Ridiculous! That no longer happens because a serial rapist’s DNA, as you say, could have been in many of those untested kits. And with the outcry for timely processing, our agency gets them all tested pretty quickly, now.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Facebook Friend Melissa J Peltier writes:

“Once again Diane you are ahead of the curve for victims. If you saw the doc “The Hunting Ground” about the college rape epidemic, it wasn’t an epidemic of more rapists, but more of the same few predators getting away with it again and again.”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Twitter Pal Organic_Reality writes:

“@DiDimond Money well spent. With raking in $20B, I’d like to see at minimum $1B being dedicated to this program. Our victims deserve”

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Diane Dimond April 11, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Twitter Pal krissy_realreal writes:

“@DiDimond please follow my story my rapist just appelled his sentence and got resentenced to reduce more than half of his time.!!!
ksnt.com/2016/04/04/top…

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Linda Kelly April 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Diane, Thank you for keeping this crime on the forefront of everyone’s mind and conscience. I have been a Forensic Nurse Examiner for more than 10 years. It is concerning to me that the re-authorization of VAWA in 2009 provided for the option for victims to receive sexual assault exams without reporting to law enforcement. The intent of that VAWA verbiage was to allow victims an opportunity to get the examination without involving law enforcement at that moment. In my experience, the majority of victims utilizing the delayed report option never initiated a police report; yet, in our jurisdiction (Baltimore County) those kits were collected and retained by the Police Dept. I believe this is a problem throughout the country. How many kits like this are included in this “backlog” number? Would it be of any value to test kits where there is no police report/complaint? If a DNA profile would be obtained it couldn’t be entered into CODIS under the circumstances.

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Diane Dimond April 12, 2016 at 9:18 am

You were right. If Law ENforcement is not involved the rape kit results cannot be entered into Codis. Frankly, I don’t know how you would get the rake it tested without first reporting the crime to the police. It’s an interesting wrinkle I didn’t consider when I wrote this column. Now I’m wondering how many women undergo rape kit testing yet never reported to the police. I’m thinking it might be a small percentage– – But an important percentage.

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Diane Dimond April 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Reader Tom Ruygo writes:

“Dear Diane,

This is only a guess but I think the reason so many rape kits don’t get tested comes down to police attitudes and priorities.

Police officers (and police departments) like the Hollywood image of cops facing danger while chasing down bad guys. Or the detective who solves crimes by putting the fear of God into suspects. It’s the tough guy routine.

Testing rape kits is for wimpy guys wearing white coats in laboratories. People like Max on Hawaii Five-0. That doesn’t fit the cop image. Besides, laboratories with equipment and technicians cost money – that could be spent on beat cops and firearms.

In short, using test tubes and chemical analyzers to solve crimes in laboratories instead of guns and interrogation rooms likely goes against police culture.”

TR

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