Mar 312009
 

As Human Rights Watch points out, the backlog of untested rape kits in Los Angeles, and the persistent inability of the county to significantly address the problem needs to be considered as not just a law enforcement problem but as a human rights issue because indeed every person has the human right to live free of sexual violence and to have the expectation that those that commit these crimes be brought to justice.

Los Angeles County officials should move urgently to test a backlog of more than 12,000 rape kits – the physical evidence collected after a sexual assault – to ensure justice for rape victims, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 68-page report, “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County,” reveals that the backlog of untested rape kits in Los Angeles County is larger and more widespread than previously reported. Through dozens of interviews with police officers, public officials, criminalists, rape treatment providers, and rape victims, the report documents the devastating effects of the backlog on victims of sexual abuse.

“Women who are raped have a right to expect police to do all they can to thoroughly investigate their case, but in LA they often feel betrayed to learn that their rape kits are never even tested,” said Sarah Tofte, researcher with Human Rights Watch’s US program and author of the report. “And in some cases, failure to test means that a rapist who could have been arrested will remain free.”

Women who report being raped are asked to undergo a lengthy, extensive examination to collect DNA and other physical evidence that might identify their attacker, corroborate testimony about the assault, or connect their case to other rape crime scene evidence. The resulting rape kit is then booked into police evidence. However, although rape victims may believe it is automatically tested, that is often not the case in Los Angeles County. Rape treatment providers told Human Rights Watch that victims assumed silence from the officers investigating their case simply meant no evidence was found, or that there was no DNA match.

But Human Rights Watch analyzed data from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles County’s 47 independent police departments, and found that as of March 1, 2009, there were at least 12,669 untested rape kits sitting in storage facilities. In those cases, officers never sent the kits on for forensic testing.

Of these 12,669 untested kits, at least 1,218 are from unsolved cases in which the attacker was a stranger to the victim. And 499 kits are attached to cases past the 10-year statute of limitations for rape in California, making it impossible to prosecute the alleged assailants even if they were to be identified. Under California law, if those 499 kits had been opened within two years of the attack, the statute would no longer apply. Thousands more rape kits were destroyed untested.

The backlog grew even as the Police and Sheriff’s Departments received millions of federal dollars from the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant, a program the US Congress created to address rape kit backlogs, the effect of which is blunted by the fact that grantees can use the money to test any kind of DNA backlog.

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 March 31, 2009  Posted by on March 31, 2009 Comments Off
Mar 302009
 

How excellent to see that Off Our Backs is going to be able to continue, as many of you will recall, that was in considerable doubt a few months ago:

Our newly reorganized, re-energized gathering of enthusiastic, talented and committed radical feminist women is dedicated to oob’s continuation as the beacon and source of feminist journalism and activism it has been since 1970.  We plan to survive and thrive! Look for our next issue to hit your libraries, bookstores and mailboxes in mid June 2009!

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 March 30, 2009  Posted by on March 30, 2009 1 Response »
Mar 272009
 

We are creating a beautiful, quilted cozy to cover the fence in front of the White House to honor Mother’s Day. The message will be “We will not raise our children to kill another mother’s child”-inspired by Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation. We’ll be piecing it together from individual squares knitted by YOU as part of the 24 hour Mother’s Day vigil for Women who live in War Zones.  The best part is you don’t have to be an experienced knitter to help!  This is perfect for knitters of all skill levels—and a great opportunity for those who want to learn! Celebrate the time honored tradition of the radical act of knitting.

Learn more here.

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 March 27, 2009  Posted by on March 27, 2009 Comments Off
Mar 262009
 

Press Release from the Family Violence Prevention Fund:

Teen Dating Violence – Teachers Can Make a DifferenceInnovative New Resource Helps English Teachers
Use Existing Texts to Encourage Teens to Say ‘No’ to Violence

SAN FRANCISCO – One of the nation’s violence prevention leaders and a national educational organization that promotes student achievement today unveiled an innovative new resource designed to help teachers incorporate violence prevention lessons into existing curricula.  The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) released Lessons from Literature, a free online resource that gives English teachers a framework to use the novels, poems, plays and stories they’re already teaching to help their students build healthy, non-violent relationships.

Its website  is the central hub of the program, where teachers can download a Classroom Manual and access other resources.  The Lessons from Literature program includes:

  • Lesson plans aligned with National Standards for the English Language Arts that address themes of abuse, violence, inequality, family/interpersonal issues, and more;
    A Lesson Template that serves as a guide for teachers to create or modify their own lessons;
  • Materials, including handouts and fact sheets on teen dating abuse, to prepare teachers and students to discuss abuse;
  • An online resource library of  books, poems, songs, movies and more to help build creative and meaningful exercises into pre-existing lessons; and
  • Opportunities for teachers to share lesson plans, ideas, resources and experiences with each other and to identify professional development opportunities through this work.

“Teachers are powerful influencers, motivators and leaders,” said FVPF President Esta Soler.  “Lessons from Literature is a groundbreaking tool that will make it easy for teachers to help students develop the skills to recognize and avoid dating violence so they can build healthy relationships.  We are so proud to partner with the National Council of Teachers of English.  Its reach will do so much to position educators to increase awareness about the damaging effects of physical, sexual and verbal abuse.”

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 March 26, 2009  Posted by on March 26, 2009 Comments Off