Missing the complexity behind untested rape kits
The July 7Metro article “2,369 rape kits in Va. untested, audit finds” cited somewhat vague reasons some rape kits were not tested: The victims chose not to participate (more than 25 percent); police deemed it unnecessary, often because the suspect acknowledged intercourse had occurred (25 percent); prosecutors didn’t pursue charges (19 percent); and police claimed the charge was unfounded (11 percent). In total, this means that more than 80 percent went untested for arguably understandable reasons.
The kits perhaps should be sent to the state crime lab by police and tested anyway because, as the article said, there may be other valuable information to be gained. The article also said the crime lab has no backlog of kits waiting to be tested.
The July 8 editorial “Leaving victims on the shelf” asserted that these 2,369 rape kits represent 2,369 crime victims without knowing the details of the cases, suggesting the victims were denied closure and that an unknown number of perpetrators have walked free. That ignored the complexity of the situation, as reported in the original article, and assumed it represented clear disregard for the alleged victims. The editorial claimed that this is a “failure” on the part of Virginia police departments and is symptomatic of a “national epidemic.”
Sexual violence is receiving much-needed attention, aimed in part at combating the disregard for rape victims that characterizes toomany cases. It is important to victims and society that we address these issues and strive for justice. But it does not help to misrepresent the facts, sacrificing complexity for want of a clear position in the face of a genuinely problematic issue.