Lessons from testing decades of forgotten rape kits: serial rapists are common, they don't follow a pattern, they're not very bright, and they're often the same men who commit acquaintance rape

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/16/not-napoleons.html


Like I’ve said before, this country has no time or money to take care of things like processing rape kits and seeking actual justice, but when it comes to taking rights away from women, immigrants, or LGBT people, they’ll finance that shit on a credit card if they “have to.”


I would call them “neglected” instead of “forgotten.” They didn’t forget about the rape kits, they didn’t care. If you forget something, like your keys or your wallet, you would soon realize it and sort it out. You wouldn’t take decades to grab your keys or wallet.

Just one more reason to have zero respect for law enforcement; other than the respect they can beat out of someone.

If they can turn it around and start doing their jobs to the best of their abilities without bias, racism, or unnecessary force, then they will deserve some respect.

I was going to say that maybe if men were raped as often as women things might be different. Then I realized if that were the case then the improvement would still be focused on the male victims. Those in power would continue to ignore the rape of women because “reasons.”

Growing up I always heard, “Our legal system may have problems, but it’s still the best in the world!”

A Google search indicates we aren’t even in the top five.


Usually only a certain type of victim will see her rapist prosecuted, says Cassia Spohn, the director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. Along with Katharine Tellis, a criminologist at California State University at Los Angeles, Spohn published an exhaustive report in 2012 that analyzed sexual-assault investigations and prosecutions in Los Angeles County. “We heard over and over detectives use the term righteous victim ,” she told me. A woman who didn’t know her assailant, who fought back, who has a clean record and hadn’t been drinking or offering sex for money or drugs— that woman will be taken seriously. Spohn recalled a typical comment: “ ‘If I had a righteous victim, I would do all that I could to make sure that the suspect was arrested. But most of my victims don’t look like that.’ ”
In cases of acquaintance rape, detectives expressed doubt and blamed the women. They spoke skeptically of “party rapes,” in which women drink too much “and make bad choices.” One described “buyer’s remorse,” where a woman who has been out partying has sex with a man “willingly” and later regrets it. “Out of 10 cases,” one detective said, “eight are false reports.”

Read the article, it’s terrifying. I really don’t know if this is fixable, given the misogyny of most law enforcement. The sad thing is that testing the rape kits and tracking down rapists has been extremely effective for a very few police departments, but only the smallest percentage of law enforcement agencies are interested.


It’s not the only solution, but increasing women in law enforcement would probably help. They currently make up about <15% of police forces.


My uncle, retired prosecutor, had some opinions on DNA testing. He was irritated by the public perception of DNA testing being like CSI. It’s different now, but not that long ago it was slow, expensive, and not very accurate. It was reserved for serious crimes (rape, murder), but juries expected it on every criminal case. It’s utility wasn’t for catching someone, it was for confirming / ruling them out (again, with a slow, expensive, middling test). If you didn’t know who the guy was, testing was worthless.

The backlog now is in part because now testing is faster, cheaper, and more accurate, but must still be done in an extremely controlled environment with evidence that must be handled carefully to avoid contamination. The number of old cases that could benefit from the newer testing has grown faster than the technicians and stations can physically manage.


By ignoring the rapes of sex workers, poor women, women of color, addicted women and disabled women, cops allowed men who were also committing property crimes and crimes of violence go free;

What a weird statement. Even if the police care more about property crimes, most people must be more likely to think that it is a bigger crime to commit rape than stealing stuff. And I don’t get the distinction between rapes and “crimes of violence.”


None of this is surprising. Depressing as [a billion deleted expletives], but sadly not at all surprising.

It’s been abundantly clear that the cops just don’t care about - or are even actively hostile towards - rape survivors, and don’t take the crime seriously on an institutional level. It’s been clear that knowledge of sex offenders has been stymied by that apathy and tainted by that hostility, leaving us with (what seemed to me, clearly) wrong notions about the issue. It’s become pretty obvious the problem is much larger than popularly admitted (and many orders of magnitude worse than law enforcement admits).

I wonder about the overlap between serial rapists and serial killers (who, according to some modern analysis, also exist in much, much higher numbers than traditionally acknowledged). I keep reading stories about rapists who started off targeting acquaintances (who were outright told by law enforcement to drop the issue), having gotten away with that moved on to strangers, and then escalated to murder. (Perversely leaving the first victims with guilt for not “doing more” to stop them in the face of institutional hostility.)


At least on the law enforcement, level, apparently not.


Yet, when there is DNA evidence in a murder, there’s no problem processing it fast enough. Hell, there are property crimes that get DNA processed at higher priority than rape kits.

So while you’re right about the history of DNA testing, you’re missing the context.


Depends on who was murdered. Lots of dead transients and prostitutes out there whose deaths were never given a thorough investigation.


It’s selective enforcement all the way down.


This is not revelatory information, it’s been the number one criticism on police refusing to test rape kits - men who rape don’t rape only once.


I’m talking about the decades old kits that are now in the queue and the history that led to a long recent queue. That would seem to be the context, given the title of the post.

I didn’t have anything to say about prioritization in that queue that you bring up. Not sure why you’re upset at me.


And yet testing of samples from OTHER crimes don’t build up anywhere near as much of a backlog. I wonder why that is?


I’m not upset, just adding to the conversation.

Your comment about how these kits are adding to the queue is valid, but also seemed dismissive of the context that investigations for other crimes somehow manage to get their DNA kits tested, anyway. (as @chgoliz points out above)


Women: Yeah, I’d love to work in law enforcement. I’m sick of the harassment and discrimination in the entertainment, tech and STEM industries.

/s, obviously?


Agreed, very tough road. Sympathy and respect for the women who do it. About the only “perk” is that they may have the option for leaving their body cameras on, so as to hopefully enforce good behavior?


I am, pretty much all the time now.

Not at that particular rando, obvs; but at this whole entire fucked up, piss-poor excuse we have for a “civilized society.”


A couple reasons, none of which are nefarious. Short sighted is more likely.

First, backlogs are due to not enough technicians and workstations. We need more of both. Period.
DNA testing many crimes, especially property crimes that are past their statute of limitations, don’t merit testing. Rape kits do. They are going to, rightly, make up a disproportionate number of the old cases being tested.
Of old crimes that merit testing, Rape kits have a much better chance of having DNA. Untested kits that have sat around for decades for lack of adequate test methods are now being sent in to test.
Recent crimes under active investigation often get priority (following leads on an active case means someone is actively pushing for testing). Unfortunately, DNA testing is a victim of its own success. Lesser crimes are being tested now that never got tested before. This further delays testing of old kits, which often don’t have someone actively pushing them. Investigation and testing policy should be updated.