Barb Bradley Hagerty@barbarabradleyh
1/ Rape is the easiest violent crime to get away with. I’ve spent nearly a year researching why for @TheAtlantic —talking with victims, police, prosecutors, and researchers. Here’s what I found.
2/ We’ve heard about the hundreds of thousands of rape kits sitting, untested, in evidence rooms. But the rape-kit scandal is just a visible symbol of a pervasive problem. Even in the #MeToo era and the age of DNA testing, police reflexively disbelieve women.
3/ By the numbers, here’s what we know:
125,000: the rough number of rapes reported each year
49: the number of cases out of 50 where the suspect goes free.
200,000: the number of untested sexual-assault kits (estimated by the federal government)
4/ Prodded by @RachelDissell at @ThePlainDealer, Cleveland launched a task force and found 7,000 untested rape kits and tested them for DNA. The kits identified hundreds of rapists who had eluded detection for years. So far, some 750 men have been indicted and 400 convicted.
5/ Here’s some startling things we’ve learned about rapists, thanks to research by @RLovell100 at @cwru. We get a lot wrong. E.g., the calculating, choosy predator is a myth. Rapists don’t profile victims. They attack anyone available.
6/ Most are generalists—criminals who steal and assault indiscriminately. Eventually, if their DNA is in the criminal database—and it often is—they get caught. Cleveland’s former prosecutor put it this way:
"These are not the Napoleons of crime," Tim McGinty told me. He paused, reflecting on the 7,000 rape kits sitting in storage in Cleveland while the perpetrators were free on the streets. "They're morons. We were letting morons beat us."
7/ But the scariest finding is the sheer number of serial rapists. Researchers found that about one in five rapes in Cleveland was committed by a serial predator. That’s 480 serial rapists in one midsize city. Think about what that means for Los Angeles or New York.
8/ That means if police believe women, and test their kits, they can stop a rapist earlier, before he assaults again. One victim—who was raped by a man whose DNA turned up in 22 rape kits—talks about all those preventable rapes. <snip>
9/ It seems like a good ROI: test a kit and catch a rapist. Everyone’s doing this, right? Nope. So in 2015 the Obama administration launched the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, giving away millions of dollars to persuade cities and states to test kits. (link: http://bit.ly/2JvwKPP) bit.ly/2JvwKPP
10/ How have these SAKI sites done?
The good news: 41 sites launched 5,500 investigations and won 498 pleas or convictions.
The bad: 2 cities, Cleveland and Detroit, account for 38 percent of the new investigations and 82 percent of the convictions.
11/ Minneapolis shows the peril of failing to investigate in the #MeToo era—prompting a devastating series by @StarTribune.
12/ One Minnesota victim told me she knew her rapist. But police never entered his name into the database. If they had, they would have seen he was a Level 3 offender—a rapist most likely to rape again.
13/ So what’s stopping police? An abiding skepticism of women who report rape. That’s what two researchers, @beckibooks of @MichiganStateU and Cassia Spohn of @ASU, concluded after analyzing files from hundreds of rape investigations in Detroit and L.A. (link: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248680.pdf)
14/ They found police pursue cases involving “righteous victims”—women raped by a stranger, who fought back and were clean of drugs or alcohol. But if the victim knew the assailant, the woman “got what she got”; police spoke skeptically about “party rapes” and “buyer’s remorse.”
15/ My jaw dropped at this note by a Detroit police officer, after a teenager reported being raped by two men in an abandoned house.
16/16 The silver lining: More places are testing kits and training detectives about sexual assault. And the success in Cleveland shows that rape cases can be won and serial rapists can be caught - if police will only believe victims.In some cases, police didn't believe that sex had occurred at all. Consider this report by a Detroit detective, after a 14-year-old girl claimed she was abducted by two men and raped inside a burned-out houses. "This heffer is trippin," the detective wrote. "She was clean and smellin good, ain't no way that ship happened like she said ... The jig was up. She didn't want to talk no mo. So her mama took her to the hospital, but they got the fuck outta here." That investigation warranted two pages, which ended: "This case is closed: UTEEC." Unable to establish the elements of the crime.