Law Enforcement Response
The New Orleans Police Department (NODP) is making progress on its backlog of over 800 untested rape kits. Various local news agencies reported that the NOPD expects that all kits, some of which date back to the 1980s, will be tested by early 2012.
So far, the department has tested about 300 of the kits, which have already yielded 12 DNA matches to profiles in the national DNA databank, CODIS. The NOPD has already made two arrests and expects to make many more as a result of the testing the backlogged rape kits.
“There are going to be a lot of individuals who are going to be arrested for sexual assaults that they thought they got away with,” said New Orleans Police Commander Paul Noel.
The department is working with the Louisiana State Police and Marshall University in West Virginia, which are contributing time and resources needed to test the hundreds of kits.
Nola.com reports that the NOPD is also working through another backlog: cases involving rape kits that yield DNA matches that were never investigated. When Noel took over as commander of the sex crimes division in July 2010, there were 400 such matches that were never properly investigated because police had downgraded More >
After a decades-long campaign by women’s rights advocates, the FBI recently announced that it would revise the definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Written more than 80 years ago, the current definition is problematic for several reasons.
The only type of sexual assault on which the UCR currently collects data is “forcible rape,” defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That definition excludes a number of crimes, including rapes where the victim was drugged or under the influence of alcohol, and all male victims of sexual assault.
Given the definition’s exceedingly narrow scope, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in yearly federal reports that are used to track crime rates in the United States. This under-reporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer resources for both preventing future sexual violence and supporting survivors.
In mid-September, members of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), including representatives of police agencies from various cities, met with FBI officials and survivors’ advocates to discuss making the definition more inclusive. The proposed change must now go through an FBI working group later this month and an FBI advisory group in December.
Campaigning by advocates More >
A corrections officer in Illinois has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child in 1997 after a rape kit that was part of a backlog in Harvey, Illinois was finally tested. The case is another powerful and deeply troubling example that every untested rape kit represents the failure to bring justice to a survivor and to protect the public.
The victim submitted to a sexual assault evidence collection–or rape kit–exam in August of 1997 after reporting numerous instances of being sexual assaulted by her step-father, Robert Buchanan. Buchanan was questioned but never charged by the Harvey Police Department and went on to serve as a corrections officer in a local jail for over a decade.
This kit was one of 200 untested rape kits that the Cook County State’s Attorney office, the sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police recovered in a 2007 raid, according to various news agencies, including NBC, CBS, ABC, the Chicago Tribune and The Huffington Post.
Under the 2010 Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, the first of two state-wide laws in the country that mandate law enforcement to track and test all rape kits, the Illinois State Police (ISP) was required to collect data on all untested rape More >
In another step forward for rape kit reform, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) announced this week that they have sent all their untested rape kits to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department crime lab for testing, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.
The state of the SMPD’s backlog of untested rape kits came to light in a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch entitled “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County.” The report focused on the backlog in police and crime lab storage facilities in Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, and the 47 cities within the county, of which Santa Monica is one. It found that there were as many as 485 untested rape kits that had been collected since 1996 in the Santa Monica Police Department’s storage facility were not tested.
“We are pleased to say that we zeroed in, made sure all kits were sent out and now we are clear of any backlog,” SMPD Captain Wendy Shirley said.
Prior to 2009, the SMPD did not send every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. The new policy of the department is to send every kit booked into evidence to the crime lab within 72 of More >
Joyful Heart was proud to sponsor the Lydia Martinez Celebration of Excellence, hosted by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault (NYCAASA) on Monday.
The Lydia Martinez Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration Awards were presented to five recipients in honor of the late First Grade Detective C. Lydia Martinez, a remarkable Special Victims Detective in New York City. I had the privilege of meeting Lydia and the strength, compassion and light that emanated from her were incredible. On Monday, her colleagues and friends, many of whom filled the room in which we were sitting, spoke about the indelible effect she had on their lives, the lives of the survivors she served and on the city’s collective response to sexual assault by law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates and medical personnel.
We were there on Monday to remember her legacy and celebrate work of those who follow in her footsteps: volunteer advocate Maegan Corcoran, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner and Coordinator Glenda Guzman, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Violence Intervention and Treatment Program Coordinator Deesha More >