An Epidemic of Disbelief – What New Research Reveals About Sexual Predators, And Why Police Fail to Catch Them by B. B. Hagerty
If men were raped at the same number as women are raped by men, I have a sneaking suspicion that rape would be treated a lot more seriously in our nation (and in other nations), and rape kits would not be sitting unopened and untested for years.
Oh, and the conservatives out there, such as the Tucker Carlsons and others, who keep whining that men are supposedly bigger victims in our culture than are women, and ergo, society has no need for feminism – especially in light of information like that presented below – you guys can kindly S.T.F.U. and F.U.
(For the naive Christians out there: click this link if you’d like to know what “STFU” stands for.)
You guys make me embarrassed to be a conservative.
What new research reveals about sexual predators, and why police fail to catch them
…Spada’s estimate was conservative. Eventually 11,341 untested rape kits were found, some dating back more than 30 years—each one a hermetically sealed testament to the most terrifying minutes of a woman’s life, each one holding evidence that had been swabbed or plucked from the most private parts of her body. And in all likelihood, some microscopic part of her assailant—his DNA, his identity—sat in that kit as well.
Eric Eugene Wilkes was known to Detroit police for robbery and carjacking. Not for rape. Yet Wilkes’s DNA was in boxes scattered throughout the warehouse, even as he walked free.
His DNA first arrived there more than 18 years ago, after he raped a woman waiting for a bus on December 26, 2000. It next appeared after another rape four months later. Three days after that, police shelved the untested kit from his third victim.
…Eleven years, 11 violent rapes—all while Wilkes’s identity was preserved in sealed containers that no one had bothered to open.
The untested rape kits would continue to accumulate for years after Spada’s visit. But that August day became a defining moment for survivors of sexual assault.
Spada called Kym Worthy, the county prosecutor, and told her what he’d found. “I was livid,” Worthy recalls. “I wanted to test them all immediately.” She began talking to reporters, and the decrepit warehouse in Detroit with the broken windows became a powerful symbol of police negligence.
Since then, Detroit and other jurisdictions across the country have shipped tens of thousands of kits to labs for testing. The results have upended assumptions about sexual predators—showing, for example, that serial rapists are far more common than many experts had previously believed.
But the rape-kit scandal has turned out to be only a visible symptom, a mole on the skin that hints at a pervasive cancer just below the surface.
The deeper problem is a criminal-justice system in which police officers continue to reflexively disbelieve women who say they’ve been raped—even in this age of the #MeToo movement, and even when DNA testing can confirm many allegations.
From the moment a woman calls 911 (and it is almost always a woman; male victims rarely report sexual assaults), a rape allegation becomes, at every stage, more likely to slide into an investigatory crevice.
Police may try to discourage the victim from filing a report. If she insists on pursuing a case, it may not be assigned to a detective. If her case is assigned to a detective, it will likely close with little investigation and no arrest. If an arrest is made, the prosecutor may decline to bring charges: no trial, no conviction, no punishment.
Each year, roughly 125,000 rapes are reported across the United States. Sometimes the decision to close a case is surely correct; no one wants to smear an innocent man’s reputation or curtail his freedom because of a false report.
But in 49 out of every 50 rape cases, the alleged assailant goes free—often, we now know, to assault again.
Which means that rape—more than murder, more than robbery or assault—is by far the easiest violent crime to get away with.
…..Nathan Ford’s rampage wasn’t enough to persuade the Cleveland police to begin addressing the rape-kit backlog. What did persuade them was a serial killer.
In October 2009, the police discovered the bodies of 11 women buried in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, a convicted rapist.
Over the years, some of Sowell’s intended victims had escaped and reported his attempts to rape them.
But the police had never thoroughly investigated their claims.
At least one woman had completed a forensic exam. The police had tested the rape kit—but only for drugs in her system, not for the rapist’s DNA.
The Sowell case became a scandal, and it raised larger questions: Why weren’t attacks on women being investigated? How many rape kits did the police department have in storage? How many had been tested?
….When the members of Cleveland’s task force began shipping rape kits to the state lab, they didn’t imagine they’d end up fomenting a small revolution in criminology.
Yet those evidence boxes uncovered new clues about the behavior of sexual assailants and overturned some basic assumptions—about how often they offend, whom they attack, and how they might be captured.
What struck her first was the sheer number of repeat offenders: Of the rape kits containing DNA that generated a CODIS hit, nearly one in five pointed to a serial rapist—giving the Cleveland investigators leads on some 480 serial predators to date.
On a practical level, this suggested that every allegation of rape should be investigated as if it might have been committed by a repeat offender. “The way we’ve traditionally thought of sexual assault is this ‘he said, she said’ situation, where they investigate the sexual assault in isolation,” Lovell told me.
Instead, detectives should search for other victims or other violent crimes committed nearby, always presuming that a rapist might have attacked before. “We make those assumptions with burglary, with murder, with almost any other crime,” Lovell said, “but not a sexual assault of an adult.”
…Eric Beauregard, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University who has interviewed 1,200 sexual offenders, says profiling may fail because a predator’s reality falls short of his fantasy.
Most offenders tell him that they dohunt for a certain type of victim, but “what they had in mind and what they selected did not match at all,” he says.
“If they are looking for a tall blonde with big breasts, at the end of the day, it was: She was there, she was available, she was alone. Those were the criteria.”
Nathan Ford’s victims, for example, were black, white, Hispanic, and Asian; 13 years old and 55; on the west side of the city and on the east.
…Most rapes, of course, are not committed by strangers. Eighty percent of the time, the rapist is someone a woman knows—they met at a party or a bar; he’s her colleague, friend, mentor, coach.
So police saw little reason to send off those rape kits: The man’s identity was never in doubt. But the Cleveland study illuminated another insight—one that shows the tragic consequences of failing to test “acquaintance rape” kits.
Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co-worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza.
When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance-rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.
….This is the question that haunts every advocate, researcher, and enlightened detective or prosecutor I spoke with: How many rapes could have been prevented if the police had believed the first victim, launched a thorough investigation, and caught the rapist? How many women would have been spared a brutal assault?
…Why would officials decide not to pursue these cases? Campbell and Lovell point to the same factor: law enforcement’s abiding skepticism of women who report being raped.
This is a problem with no easy fix, says Dan Clark, the Cleveland detective, who conducts training programs across the country for SAKI. Clark tries to teach investigators to take a woman’s allegation of rape as seriously as they would a report of assault or robbery.
But in private conversations afterward, he says, it becomes clear the message didn’t sink in: Officers continue to tell him they think that many women lie about being raped, and that their claims aren’t worth investigating. “This is that sort of intractable belief that we could not seem to shake.”
….But even given these challenges, the skepticism shown by police and prosecutors—who are not juries, after all—is extraordinary. Officials don’t talk about their methods publicly, and rarely reveal their thinking, much less their motives or biases.
But two cities—Detroit and Los Angeles—allowed researchers to read thousands of pages of police reports and to interview detectives and prosecutors.
What the researchers found is a subterranean river of chauvinism, where the fate of a rape case usually depends on the detective’s or (less often) prosecutor’s view of the victim—not the alleged perpetrator.
….Usually only a certain type of victim will see her rapist prosecuted, says Cassia Spohn, the director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University.
Along with Katharine Tellis, a criminologist at California State University at Los Angeles, Spohn published an exhaustive report in 2012 that analyzed sexual-assault investigations and prosecutions in Los Angeles County. “We heard over and over detectives use the term righteous victim,” she told me.
A woman who didn’t know her assailant, who fought back, who has a clean record and hadn’t been drinking or offering sex for money or drugs—that woman will be taken seriously.
Spohn recalled a typical comment: “ ‘If I had a righteous victim, I would do all that I could to make sure that the suspect was arrested. But most of my victims don’t look like that.’ ”
In cases of acquaintance rape, detectives expressed doubt and blamed the women. They spoke skeptically of “party rapes,” in which women drink too much “and make bad choices.”
One described “buyer’s remorse,” where a woman who has been out partying has sex with a man “willingly” and later regrets it. “Out of 10 cases,” one detective said, “eight are false reports.”
Rebecca Campbell heard similar language from investigators in Detroit. In her 2015 report (a 550-page postmortem of Detroit’s rape-kit scandal), detectives often said that women “got what they got” if they knew the man. She asked one detective whether a man can rape an acquaintance. “Truly rape?” he asked. “Sometimes. But not most of the time.”
…To police officers who haven’t been trained to spot signs of trauma, many rape victims appear to be lying. Why was she laughing when she gave her statement? Why was she so flat and unemotional?
One Detroit detective told Campbell that a victim should be “a complete hot mess. They should be crying. They should be very, very traumatized.”
But research finds that many victims don’t respond in a predictable fashion.
This goes for their behavior during the assault as well as after: Why didn’t she fight? Why didn’t she run?
Liz Garcia used to tell people that she would fight like crazy if a stranger ever came into her house. “I don’t say that anymore. I could have had all the weapons in the world in my house. But I couldn’t grab a weapon. He was taller, bigger; there was no fighting him.”
One survivor told me she offered her assailant a glass of iced tea, hoping her courtesy would dissuade him.
Another tried to politely decline the assault: You don’t have to do that. It’s fine.
Yet another pretended she was enjoying herself, hoping he wouldn’t kill her afterward.
…If detectives blame or disbelieve a woman, their next step is to close the case by persuading her to withdraw the complaint. In Detroit, Campbell says, detectives sometimes opened interviews by noting that the victim would be charged for false reporting if she said anything that was untrue or couldn’t be corroborated.
…What recourse does a victim have when police or prosecutors refuse to take her seriously? Virtually none, it seems.