Money isn't the only reason why police have ignored 80,000 rape kits

Date: 
September 14, 2015

Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP), which trains law enforcement officials to properly handle sexual assault cases, tells me that testing all rape kits is crucial, but it’s only a first step. “Even when a kit is tested, law enforcement often fails to forward the case for prosecution, and prosecutors often fail to go forward with the few cases referred to them,” she said.

Hecht Schafran also points out that a tested rape kit is not proof enough to put rapists away – it’s a piece of evidence that helps aid in prosecution. But too often – because of prevailing myths about rape and systemic victim-blaming – cases don’t even make it that far.

“Because few law enforcement officers and prosecutors are educated about the way victims behave in traumatic situations, their attitude toward victims is often disbelief and disdain,” Hecht Schafran says. That’s in part why NJEP creates curricula for police, judges, prosecutors. “We know that when this education is made available to these gatekeepers it is transformative,” she says.