Texas Will Now Clear the Backlog of Rape Kits — Only the First Step to Clearing More Cases Against Rapists

Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott came to Dallas and signed an important piece of legislation into law. The new law will help the state clear a backlog of rape kits that have piled up for years. These kits contain the evidence collected in the wake of an assault and often capture key elements for investigating an assault, such as DNA.It was a glaring oversight that the state allowed these kits to pile up in the first place — and the most recent count, dating back to August 2017, placed the number of untested rape kits at 2,138. But Texans shouldn’t be lulled back into complacency. Working through this backlog is only one hurdle that has to be cleared to investigate, prosecute and punish those who carry out sexual assaults.As in the rest of the country, rape is a pernicious problem in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, more than 18,000 women reported being sexually assaulted in 2016. And there is reason to believe that’s an undercount. Nationally, the Justice Department reports that more than half of rapes are never reported to police.Of the assault cases that are investigated, 40% never make it onto a prosecutor’s desk. Sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, even once they cross this crucial hurdle. Studies by the FBI and the Justice Department suggest that less than 1% of these crimes lead to prison time.Eliminating the rape kit backlog should make this better, but it won’t solve the overall problem of too few convictions for sexual assault. According to Kim D’Avignon, a prosecutor specializing in sexual assault for Tarrant County, sexual assault cases don’t often hinge on DNA evidence. The task isn’t proving sex took place -- it’s proving whether the sex was consensual.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us