Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reported Rapes on the Decrease

I've written posts and responses in the past that have landed me in some hot water. I've been in trouble for trying to explain the backlog that exists in forensic science, especially when it comes to sexual assault cases. I've been in trouble because my job as an unbiased scientist who has to testify in court is bound by the notion that it is not my place to label the sexual assault a rape. Oh yes, I have played the role of devil's advocate in a way that is uncomfortable for me.

So, it pleases me to be able to provide a post that has a glimmer of hope. True, it is only a glimmer, but hope has to start somewhere. If it didn't, I wouldn't be able to face my job each day. USA Today provided the following post: Reported Rapes Hit 20-year Low.
Reported rapes have fallen to the lowest level in 20 years as DNA evidence helps send more rapists to prison and victims are more willing to work with police and prosecutors, victims advocates and crime researchers say./
It is clearly a combination of factors of which forensic DNA analysis is only a small piece of the puzzle. DNA evidence obviously makes it easier to establish a link between perpetrator and crime. The national DNA database allows for the linking of heretofore unsolved crimes. Prosecutors are able to rely on something beyond eyewitness identification, which during times of stress on the victim are historically inaccurate. The truth to that is made all the more obvious by the presence of The Innocence Project.

I'm not suggesting that the system is perfect yet. In fact, if you look at one of the links at the bottom of the article above you will find the following: 1-Year Rape Conviction.
Two state lawmakers are questioning a plea agreement that will allow a man to serve only one year in jail on a conviction for raping a 4-year-old girl.

Nineteen of the 20 years of a sentence against 64-year-old David Harold Earls were suspended as part of a plea agreement reached with Pittsburg County prosecutors.
I have to believe, however, that despite some clear failings by our legal system, that the criminal justice system is starting to get it right. There is a long way to go. There is still a backlog of sexual assault cases, which is a direct result of lack of funding. There is only so much a department of five scientists can do.

Still, it does seem as if the pieces are falling into place and that provides me with a reason to keep doing what I do...not that I ever really needed a reason in the first place.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

To be honest I think one of the big problems in rape cases are the people who could be vindicated by the technology of DNA evidence that wasn't available during their trial, but who pretty much have to just sit in the back of the line until someone maybe gets to the backlog. My neighbor was put in jail for five years when he was a minor until DNA evidence vindicated him...