Rape Kits

April 26th, 2017

Content Warning(s): Rape, Rape Culture

Day twenty-six! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

Across various posts this month and beyond, I've dropped "rape kits" as a reason why I personally didn't report. For me, it was a lot of factors: I didn't think a court would believe me, I didn't want to get entangled in legal bullcrap for years when I wanted to forget it even happened, I didn't want the physical contact OF the rape kit examination (did you know it could take up to 6 hours?), and I knew about the backlog stopping legal justice from even occurring. It seemed like too much work for something that wouldn't be respected.

If you don't know about rape kits, here's the deal: when a survivor goes to the ER or a rape crisis center, they can have a rape kit exam and evidence from it will be preserved. That kit can identify the rapist if they were unknown to the survivor, confirm the survivor's story, and connect the rape with other reported rapes in the country. But there's a giant backlog numbering in the hundred-thousands, both from prosecutors not requesting DNA analysis and from analysis labs not being tested in a timely manner.

The most useful part of having a database of tested rape kits would be to convict more rapists and of those, more serial rapists. However, of course, many more rapes occur than are reported, and of those reported and documented, not nearly as many are being tested. It seems awfully cruel to add this insult after all the effort the reporting survivors DO take to get tested. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be raped, actually go to a place where someone could conduct this exam, wait until it can be conducted, wait 6 hours during the exam itself, have to testify in court and endure a lengthy and intricate process, then not have the rape kit examined or taken as evidence.

None of my friends have ever spoken to me about whether they took the option of a rape kit, but then, they were probably in a situation like mine where their rapist was someone they thought they could trust. When both the situation in which the rape occurred and the court/laboratory system are against you and you don't feel like you can win, it makes it difficult to proceed with such an examination. I don't have much more to say other than the fact that these are going untested is unconscionable and it seems like a very difficult process to fight for this right.

Complete change of subject, train of thought: Does anybody else absolutely LOATHE the terms "date rape" or "acquaintance rape"? I feel like they give expectations for the circumstances and thereby mitigate the strength of the rape. It seems the cases that would actually benefit from a criminal rape kit testing would be "more serious" and something like what they're calling date rape would be "less serious" based on the fact that you'd be presumed to be dating that person. They don't sit right with me, particularly since there's no term for what happened to me; though I guess "person-I-was-friends-with-and-thought-I-could-trust rape" is kind of unwieldy.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about spousal rape, sort of tying into the misconception that it's "less serious" mentioned above.


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