All Articles Tagged "rape"

Why Black Women Don’t Report Their Sexual Assaults

March 25th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Why Black Women Don't Report Their Sexual Assaults

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I’ve been gravely disappointed during this ongoing Cosby scandal. Partially because the Bill Cosby I’d watched and admired was now marred by this scandal but mostly because of the people in my circles who tried to demonize the women who spoke out against him. After all, I never knew Bill Cosby. I do, however, know the family members, friends, distant associates and others who asked questions like “why are these women just now coming forward?”

Sad.

This type of thought pattern just showed that there is a gross ignorance among people about sexual assault and what happens, emotionally and psychologically, to the women who have endured it.

And while I’ve tried to fight the good fight on my Facebook page and in conversations where it happened to come up, explaining that there is no set way to process trauma; now there is empirical, anecdotal evidence to support what I had been saying all along, especially as it pertains to Black women.

A New York based human right’s organization, called Black Women’s Blueprint, is conducting an ongoing study which found that nearly 60 percent of Black women have been involved in a coercive sexual assault by the time they are 18-years-old.

And in relaying her own story, one of these women explained in an article with Raw Story why it’s so hard for Black women to report their sexual assaults to the authorities.

If we report our assaults to police, we risk being retraumatized not only by the inhumane process of reliving a violent experience through sharing its gory details – but also by the violence of the criminal justice system itself , which treats rape victims like suspects . Worse yet, the police themselves commit assault with impunity ; often, they target black women in particular , knowing our existence at the intersections of racism and misogyny make crimes against us far less likely to be investigated .

To be a “ good rape victim ” is to immediately report your assault to the police (even knowing you will likely never see “justice” ), but to be a good black person is to avoid the police entirely because your life quite literally depends on it . The tightrope walk is impossible.

These words sound alarmingly like the ones Beverly Johnson wrote when she detailed her sexual assault with Cosby. You might recall that she hesitated coming forward because, with all the racial tension in the country these days, she didn’t want to be the Black woman attempting to drag a Black man down.  

She knew before the essay was even published that she would be in for a world of scrutiny and judgement.

And she was right. My heart broke as I watched people, some of them MN readers (women), call Johnson everything but a child of God for daring to step forward with this story.

If Johnson, with her illustrious career and the respect she’s earned in the industry, was torn down in this way, imagine what happens to the “unknown” women who tell their doubting family members and law enforcement officers about their own sexual assaults? The outcome is not likely to provide any closure. In fact, the experience of being doubted, questioned or further victimized might just result in even more trauma.

To paraphrase one of my Facebook and real life friends: ladies and gentlemen, the women in your life, who’ve been quietly living with the secrets and burdens of their own sexual assaults, are watching you and your reaction to this whole Bill Cosby situation, wondering if they should continue to remain silent and whether or not you’ll doubt them too.

Houston Finally Tests Rape Kit Backlog, Finds 850 DNA Matches

February 25th, 2015 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Houston held more than 6,600 untested rape kits — some dating back almost 30 years. Last year, the city finally stepped in with a $6 million initiative to clear the backlog of potential DNA evidence. According to the Associated Press, 850 samples matched DNA profiles found on the FBI’s forensic criminal database.

Efforts to test the backlogged rape kits were launched in 2013 and so far, charges have been filed against 29 people — six of whom have convicted. The defendants, according to the AP, received sentences ranging from two to 45 years. One case was thrown out, though, after a victim decided not to press charges.

“Now that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it’s up to us to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims. The ball is in our court and we will do our best to put the people who are responsible for these heinous crimes behind bars for as long as possible,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said of the $5.9 million initiative.

Law enforcement officials are continuing the review the DNA matches to pursue other suspects.

So why did it take so long for Houston to test these rape kits? Analyzing these samples are costly; the AP notes that testing can run from $500 to $1,000 per kit. But “advocates argue that the lack of testing signals that sex crimes haven’t always been law enforcement priorities,” the media outlet said.

Parker added that Houston isn’t the only city with backlogged rape kits. Memphis, Detroit, and Cleveland all have 12,000, 11,000, and 4,700 backlogged rape kits, respectively.

“This is not a Houston problem. It’s not a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide issue that built up over years and years,” Parker said.

Testing these rape kits not only helps victims of sexual assault, but assists in putting suspects behind bars by matching their DNA with other crimes they may have committed.

Rape kits feature biological and physical evidence gathered from rape victims that are later analyzed to see if they match a suspect’s DNA. The results are uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

[h/t Gawker]

Stacey Dash Apologizes For Implying ‘Naughty’ Rape Victims Are To Blame For Assaults, Calls It “Failed Attempt At Humor”

February 3rd, 2015 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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CARLO ALLEGRI/Reuters/Corbis

We told you over the weekend that Stacey Dash put her foot in her mouth for the umpeenth time recently with comments she made about rape victims. This time though, it seems that she finally realized she went a little too far.

In case you missed her comments on Fox News’ “Outnumbered,” Dash pulled out the whole, “don’t put yourself in a compromising situation” argument, as opposed to the “don’t rape folks” argument. It all started because the panelists were speaking on the University of Virginia’s decision to ban sorority members from fraternity parties this past weekend during their “big recruitment drive.” They tried to create these new rules as they reinstated fraternities on campus. Fraternities on UVA’s campus were suspended last November, after allegations of rape, including a story of a gang rape that was published in Rolling Stone (but was found to have some major discrepancies), surfaced. Here are Dash’s thoughts on the ban, as well as Dartmouth’s choice to ban hard alcohol for on-campus parties in the hopes of warding off “extreme behaviors”:

“Ridiculous. And I think the girls, I think it’s a good thing, for the good girls, to you know…

Women, sorry, not to be told, ‘stay home, be safe.’ The other bad girls–bad women–are the ones who like to be naughty, might go out and play and get hurt and then, you know…But the other thing about this is that it then blames the alcohol instead of the person who over-drinks. So it’s like, the same thing with guns. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Alcohol doesn’t get you drunk; you get yourself drunk.”

Dash is now backtracking on her Facebook page:

“After a failed attempt at humor about ‘good girls’ and ‘naughty girls,’ during my recent appearance on Outnumbered, I transitioned to the very serious issue of men blaming alcohol for their vile behavior. LET ME BE CLEAR: I am a victim of physical and sexual abuse. My point was that there IS NO EXCUSE for a man taking advantage of women under any circumstances. I believe that these universities focusing on alcohol consumption as a means to stop evil behavior takes the focus off the real issue of the objectification of women and how that can be prevented. I apologize to anyone who believed I was blaming the victims of these horrible acts.”

Nice apology, but the comments Dash made on “Outnumbered” definitely don’t sound like she was saying that there is no excuse for a man to take advantage of a woman. More like, ladies, don’t go out and be naughty, fellas, don’t get drunk and take advantage of people. But you can check out her statements for yourself below and make up your mind on what Dash was really trying to say:

 

Fundraising Campaign Set To Help Test Rape Kits, Prosecute Attackers In Detroit

January 7th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit discovered 11,000 untested rape kits in the Detriot police storage unit five years ago. Yesterday, the Prosecutor’s Office announced they, alongside two nonprofits, will raise $10 million in order for these kits to be investigated and prosecute the attackers. In order to raise the funds and justice for victims, the Prosecutor’s office and nonprofits are depending on individuals and businesses to donate financially, therefore, creating a “solving rape case charity.”

Since the untested kits have been found, 2,000 kits have been tested and 670 of them have found a DNA match in order to identify the attacker. The Detroit Free Press says 188 serial rapists have been identified in these cases, including 15 who have been convicted of their crimes. Among these 15 attackers, Shelly Andre Brooks, who raped and murdered several women, is now serving a life sentence.

It’s possible some of his crimes could have been prevented if previous rape kits were tested. Wayne County’s Prosecutor Kym Worthy, a sexual assault victim herself, has made it her mission to end these injustices against victims. Her office has earned money to test the remainder of rape kits with the help of 29-year-old nonprofit Michigan Women’s Foundation.

“We’re trying to change the way sexual assault (investigations are) handled in this county,” Worthy said. She was raped in law school but failed to report her attack because she feared it would derail her law career.

The fundraising campaign to test the rape kits is called Enough SAID (Sexual Assault In Detroit) and has acquired $750,000. The state of Michigan has set aside $4 million to test the kits in Detroit and all the kits are expected to be tested with results by the end of May. Despite the silver lining in this cloud, money would also be needed for investigations and prosecutions. The Michigan Attorney General says it will set aside $3 million to prosecute cases for the next three years. More will be needed to solve the thousands of leftover cases. Authorities noted rapists will rape (on average) 11 times and usually commit other crimes.

Untested rape kits are not unique to Detroit. The Detroit Free Press breaks down how many untested rape kits there are in other cities:

Memphis: more than 12,000.
Cleveland: nearly 4,000
Tulsa, Okla.: more than 3,700
Las Vegas, more than 4,000
Dallas, 4,144 (testing is in progress)
Toledo: 2,300 (testing in progress)

To help with this cause and end the streak of untested rape kits in the nation, donate to Enough SAID.

“Forget These Women:” Phylicia Rashad Defends Bill Cosby Against Rape Allegations

January 7th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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COSBY

 

While most stars connected with “The Cosby Show” — Debbie Allen, Raven-Symone, Keshia Knight Pulliam — have remained neutral in speaking on the resurgence of rape allegations against Bill Cosby, opting simply to express their love for the comedian and clarify that they’ve never been victimized by him, Phylicia Rashad has taken a much stronger approach.

The actress who played the beloved Claire Huxtable on one of America’s favorite sitcoms reportedly spoke with Showbiz 411 reporter Roger Friedman at a luncheon for “Selma” yesterday. And though she told Friedman “I don’t want to become part of the public debate” as he broached the subject of Cosby, Rashad undoubtedly will for her next remarks regarding her former co-star’s current scandal.

“I love him,” Rashad said of Cosby.“Forget these women. What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

“Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV and it’s worked. All his contracts have been cancelled. This show represented America to the outside world. This was the American family. And now you’re seeing it being destroyed. Why?”

If you doubt the statements from the 20-something women who have come forward claiming to have either been drugged or raped by Cosby, including supermodels Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson, you’re likely asking the same question. You’re probably also questioning Cosby’s wife of 50 years, Camille, wondering how she could stand by her husband against allegations such as these. Rashad has a response for those critics as well. Saying there’s no question that Camille hasn’t looked the other way when it comes to these claims of transgression, Rashad added, “This is a tough woman, a smart woman; she’s no pushover.” As for why Bill has chosen not to deny these allegations outright, Rashad says he probably has too much pride, adding that at this point it also probably would do no good.

Two Arrests Made In The “Viral” Rape Of Houston Teen, Jada

December 17th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Two Arrests Made In The "Viral" Rape Of Houston Teenager, Jada

Source: MSNBC

Some of us understand the prevalence of rape. Some of us even know how such heinous, inhumane acts affect the psyche. And even though some of us have grasped these concepts, we were still astounded to learn of Jada. The Houston teenager was not only drugged and raped by two different men, images of her naked body sprawled across the floor were posted all over social media. They even created a hashtag, #jadapose. And as if this weren’t enough, people were using Twitter and other social media websites to shame Jada, blaming her for her own rape.

This story could have ended tragically. But luckily, instead of keeping it to herself or being to ashamed to speak up, Jada fought for herself. And thousands across the country, including celebrities, fought with her, creating the #IAmJada hashtag.

Thankfully, today, five months after the incident occurred, MSNBC reported that two people have been arrested in Jada’s rape. One of them a grown man and another, a minor.

This is what Jada had to say about the arrests, support from her followers and what a family spokesperson had to say about legislation and cyberbullying.

The arrests

“It’s wonderful about the arrests. But I’m just grateful and thankful for everyone who followed and supported me.” 

“I would like to see justice. Justice in full effect and that’s it.”

Quanell X, a local leader of the New Black Panther Party and the family’s spokesperson said that he was surprised it took authorities so long to make an arrest when both accused rapists confessed and were even bragging about the incident on social media. There was also evidence that showed Jada wasn’t the only girl they did this to. But at one point another investigator took over the case.The adult man was charged with two counts of child sex assault.

Jezebel exposed Quanell X’s interesting backstory.  In 2011, 13 African American men were accused of gang raping an 11-year-old Hispanic girl. X held a rally that seemed to play on the tension between the Black and Latino community, asking the group where was the girl’s mother, father and even asking why an 11-year-old child, who had been assaulted by these two men before on a separate occasion, didn’t report her rape to the police. Quite sick and in direct contention with the story he’s supporting today.

Commenters on Jezebel have argued that Quanell follows the cameras. But perhaps there’s more to it. Maybe X felt justified in blaming a Hispanic girl if it would protect the images of these Black men, though some of them admitted their guilt as well. The point is a child should never be blamed for something like this–nor should she be further shamed with questions about why she didn’t report it.

Perhaps he’s had a change of heart on rape victims and his former rape apologists views. But either way, severe side eye to Quanell…

As far as this case goes though, X hopes the social media attention Jada’s story has raised will help legislatures make some type of move against cyberbullying.

“I believe that we’re attempting to work with state legislatures right here in Texas to make cyber bullying a crime. Because you have so many people out there who are victims of sexual assault but they don’t want to be bullied through social media, so they tend to keep their stories to themselves and never come forth. We don’t want to allow social media, which has been a gift and a curse in many cases, to stop victims from speaking up about being a victim of a sexual assault or a crime.”

Jada says her life is not the same anymore but it’s also not the worst. She also said that while she hasn’t gotten much support from the teenagers in her community, the adults and people she doesn’t know have been very supportive.

Ronan Farrow asked Jada before she left what advice she would give to others who find themselves in a similar situation.

My advice to you guys is just to pray and speak out and just tell nothing but the truth. 

Is she glad she spoke out?

Yes, I am glad because I needed my story to be heard. 

What have you learned from all of this?

“I learned that some people have hearts and some people just go off of what they hear.” 

What do you want to do in the future?

“I would like to keep working on this with others, other people who are going through this in the near future. But I would like to go to college and then become a pharmacist.”

Again, we commend and even thank Jada for stepping forward after an unimaginable ordeal and using her trauma to help others. We wish her nothing but the best.

Lincoln University President Resigns After Damning Rape Comments

November 25th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Lincoln University President Resigns

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Earlier this month, we reported about Lincoln University President Robert R. Jennings and his disparaging comments to the female students on campus. 

His comments were so foul and brought so much negative attention to the university that Jennings was forced to resign.

In case you don’t remember or didn’t initially hear or see what he said, the gist of it is he told an assembly full of women not to put themselves in situations where they could be raped. He encouraged the female students not to report their rapes, if they did indeed occur because they could ruin someone else’s life. And then he went so far as to say that the three women who did report their rapes last semester were lying, that they wanted relationships with the men who raped them and when it “didn’t turn out the way they wanted,” they cried rape.

I wish this weren’t true.

His remarks were widely reported after they were recorded and posted on YouTube. And naturally, subsequently shunned. Several individuals, media outlets and even parents of current students criticized the comments as appearing to blame women for sexual assault.

Jennings attempted to apologize for his remarks, saying that he would never discourage women from reporting rape or sexual assault.

But the damage had already been done.

According to theGrio, Lincoln University accepted Jennings’ resignation Monday morning and named the school’s general counsel Valerie Harrison as acting president while they search for a permanent 14th president for the University.

Smart move.

Just Like She Said: Janice Dickinson Releases Pictures Of Bill Cosby In That Patchwork Robe+ New Victim Steps Forward

November 21st, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Janice Dickinson Releases Pictures Of Bill Cosby In That Patchwork Robe

Source: Instagram

 

Earlier this week, we told you about Janice Dickinson stepping forward once again with her allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her in Lake Tahoe back in 1982. And in detailing the story, she recalled that right before she remembers passing out, she watched as Bill Cosby untied the belt of his patchwork robe.

Well, Janice recently sent polaroid pictures from that night to TMZ. And like she says, Cosby is sitting there, in a patchwork robe, talking to someone on the phone.

Judging by the amount of skin you see on his chest and his legs, under the table, I doubt he has a whole lot of clothes on underneath.

Janice told TMZ she took these Polaroids in the hotel room after she took the pill but before she actually blacked out.

Dickinson says she woke up the next morning with semen in between her legs.

The pictures certainly don’t corroborate, without a doubt, Janice’s story of sexual assault. But I certainly find it jarring to see these images after listening to her story.

Several will reference Dickinson’s sexual past, to which she’s admitted, as a reason not to believe her. But perhaps, she took the picture before the assault because she could feel herself slipping away.

Unless that picture reveals something we can’t readily see, we’ll probably never know what happened.

Whatever did happen that night, we can all agree that Cosby, with his wedding ring on his finger, and in this state of undress, shouldn’t have been there.

What do you make of the pictures?

cosby-victim

And in other Bill Cosby sexual assault news, poet Nikki Giovanni, seven years ago, spoke openly about Bill Cosby’s penchant for pulling his pants down. 

Then, as if all of this weren’t enough, another victim has come forward. 52-year-old Angela Leslie, a former model and actress, spoke the the New York Daily News about her Bill Cosby sexual assault story. And shockingly, her story is much like Barbara Bowman.

Cosby, under the guise of advancing her career, invited her to meet with him. And like Bowman, he told her to pretend like she was drunk and gave her a dark drink to aide her in the exercise. But Leslie said she only pretended to drink it because it was too strong for her.

Afterward, Cosby instructed her to wet her hair. She did so and when she came back into the room, Cosby was in bed.

“He had taken his clothes off. He summoned me over to the bed and I walked over. He proceeded to get some Vaseline lotion and he put my hand on his penis and did the masturbation movements with his hands on mine.”

Leslie said she stood there frozen but then start pulling away from him.

“I felt pretty dirty and disgusted. I really wanted to act and be a dancer in the entertainment industry. After I didn’t go along with what he did, he sort of dismissed me from his room. He didn’t speak to me the next day. I really feel he took away my ability to do what I’ve dreamed of all these years. I was on my way. I did several movies. After I met Cosby, nothing. I feel he should not clip the wings of people with dreams and desires to be in the industry just because he’s in a high position. He should use it to help, if possible. I feel I was hindered by him because I just didn’t go along with what his usual scheme and plan was for women.”

Leslie believes had she drank the whole drink, she would have been raped. She makes the 8th victim to come forward with these allegations.

“I’m coming forward now because I’ve been watching the news and seeing these ladies come forward. Cosby’s not saying anything. He’s not apologizing. He’s pretending that it didn’t happen and it happened. It happened with me. He got my hand, he put it on his penis. It’s something I did not got there for. I did not initiate that kind of action. I want people to know that he’s not the person America thinks that he is.”

“It Happened To Me” Janice Dickinson Talks Being Sexually Assaulted By Bill Cosby

November 18th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Janice Dickinson Talks Being Sexually Assaulted By Bill Cosby

Source: Entertainment Tonight

If you’ve read Janice Dickinson’s autobiography, you may already know that she’s spoken about Bill Cosby sexually assaulting her.

And now that the allegations have resurfaced, and more and more women are coming forward, with similar stories, Janice Dickinson sat down with Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier to explain what happened to her back in 1982 with Dr. Cosby.

“In 1982, I was on a job in Bali, in Indonesia. And he called. And the conversation, to the best of my recollection, ‘You need to get to Lake Tahoe because I’ll be performing there and I want to offer you that job we talked about. As well as helping you with a singing career I hear you’re trying to do.’

When I arrived at Lake Tahoe, Bill was performing at the venue and then after dinner, in my room he’d given me wine and a pill. The next morning I woke up and I wasn’t wearing my pajamas. And I remember before I passed out that I had been sexually assaulted by this man. 

Before I woke up in the morning, the last thing I remember was Bill Cosby…uh…in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me.” 

Then Janice explains why she’s coming forward, again, to tell this story.

“I’ll tell you why. I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do. It happened to me and this is the true story.”

Good for Janice having the courage to relive what must have been a very traumatic moment in her life. As sad of a commentary as this is, people don’t often believe certain issues are indeed problematic or that people have pure motives for coming forward, until there’s a celebrity’s face attached to it.

You can watch the full piece of her interview in the video below.

Rape Culture Is Real: N.O. Detectives Failed To Investigate Over 1,000 Sex Crimes

November 14th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

For those still wondering if there is such a thing as rape culture? The short answer is: absolutely.

While the long answer comes courtesy of CNN.com. In particular this article about five New Orleans Police Department Special Victim Unit detectives, who may have failed to investigate a combined 1,111 sex crimes over a three-year period.

According to CNN, the revelations are from a recent study entitled Documentation of Sex Crime Investigations by Five Detectives in the Special Victims Section of the New Orleans Police Department, which was conducted by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General. You can read the report in its entirety here.

However in the executive summary, N.O Inspector General E. R. Quatrevaux writes that the office conducted the investigation after reviewing information gathered by the Audit Division of this Office for its Audit of NOPD’s Uniform Crime Reporting of Forcible Rapes and discovering that 23 out of the 90 sex crime related reports audited, “raised concerns about the documentation of the investigations.”

At the time of the investigation, there were only nine detectives working the special victim unit, which is mostly responsible for sex crimes. However, in the Inspector General’s report, the five detectives being audited only conducted thorough investigations (including supplemental investigations) on a total of 179 instances (or 13 percent) of the 1,290 sex crime-related calls assigned to them. The rest of were mainly “short and vague” incident reports.

The CNN article highlights one particularly heinous case involving a toddler:

According to the seven-page document released Wednesday by the city’s Office of Inspector General, a 2-year-old was brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault. Tests would show the toddler had a sexually transmitted disease, the report said.

The detective in the case wrote in his report that the 2-year-old “did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation and closed the case,” the inspector general’s report said.

The Inspector General’s reports cites the lack of supervisor as a major cause for the detectives’ negligence. According to CNN, most of the incidents in question occurred under the reign of previous police chief Ronal Serpas. However Cmdr. Michael Harrison, interim N.O police chief, calls the findings of the report “a disappointment” and reflective of the need for “ more work to do within the department than he originally thought.” CNN also reports that the officers in question have been transferred the five detectives to “patrol-related duties.” And the department has instituted policies to ensure cases are being thoroughly investigated.

Outside of the failure to follow up on sex crime allegations, a couple of the officers in question failed, on several occasions, to follow up on medical reporting including rape kits within some of these cases, which could have led to suspect matches in the cases. And as CNN reports:

A review of the DNA Laboratory’s records shows that as of October 13, 2014, the NOPD has failed to respond to 53 state lab requests for “reference samples” to confirm that DNA obtained in an investigation matches DNA in an FBI database, the report said. The requests date back to July 2010.”

The lack of followup on physical and other medical evidence is particularly frightening and also corresponds with another national problem related to untested rape kits. According to the website EndTheBacklog.com, while there is no comprehensive national registry on hand with actual numbers, experts estimate that there are an upwards of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits (the site also offers a map to show just how pervasive the problem is and what legislation is on the books or has been introduced to combat it).

The issue of untested rape kits was one, which I had also profiled in a piece from last year about Wayne County D.A Kim Worthy’s attempt to get 11,000 untested rape kits in the Detroit area tested. Thankfully, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced earlier this week his office’s intentions of issuing up to $35 million in grant money to help prosecutors around the country test the tens of thousands of rape kits currently collecting dust on police evidence shelves.

Great news, but what good is it going to do if we can’t even get officers in charge of handling the evidence to take it seriously?