Documentation, cotton swabs, combs and tarnished envelopes sit on police department shelves waiting to be used as forensic evidence. Some have been waiting since the 1970s. On Sept. 21 in The Avenue, Lamont Johnson, Men of PEACC advisor, invited panel of experts to discuss the mistreatment of rape kits, and to inform U of L students how this affects the foreseeing problem of rape culture.
11 percent of Kentucky agencies report not performing the forensic phase of the rape kit process due to there being no prevalent suspect. According to the panel, trying those kits could help link DNA to other cases, making it easier to prosecute suspects for multiple cases.
As many states, Kentucky included, require felons to submit to DNA testing, testing the kits even though they don’t have suspects can even help trace criminals across state lines. Cases have been linked from Kentucky to Indiana, New York, Texas and New Jersey.
While technology is an amazing recourse for getting justice, the emotions of the victim always take precedence over simply “finding the guy.”
“We don’t seek for every single rape kit to be sent off, that’s not what we are about. If a victim recants, then the kit shouldn’t be sent off,” said one panelist.
This conflicts with the efforts of most law enforcement, however.
“We want to get it done quickly, we want to put someone in prison, we want the victim to cooperate,” said Officer James Itschner. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Itschner also stressed the importance of recognizing rape in every shape and form as well.
“Rape isn’t only an assault that happens in alleyways at night,” he said, “but at parties, with people you know, around people you know. If you have sex with someone that is too drunk to give consent, you are a rapist. And that’s not okay.”
Frank Foley, a U of L student, stressed that while students were aware of some aspects of sexual assault, other less prevalent methods were completely ignored.
“There is a certain ambiguity when it comes to what rape really is,” Foley asserted, “when students truly grasp the extent of sexual assault, then a difference can be made. Males particularly need to understand that a sober yes is a person’s consent and that prior agreement is not equivalent to current consent.”
The U of L PEACC center will also recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12, as U of L ROTC and other members of the Louisville community participate in a musical event.