The Gender Loophole in the American Judicial System

Staff writer Eliza Petrie ’20 explores how most rapists are indicted – or rather, how most of them are not. 

After such a traumatic incident as rape, it is natural that one’s immediate instinct would be to wash his or her body and change his or her clothing. However, victims of rape are encouraged not to change their clothes, shower or bathe, use the restroom, or even brush their hair or teeth, maximizing the chance of preserving DNA evidence of the rapist.

Rape kits are extremely important tools for storing DNA evidence of the perpetrator. Rape kits include such bags and paper sheets for evidence collection, a comb, documentation forms, envelopes, instructions, materials for blood samples and swabs. Kits can include semen, hair, and skin cells from the attacker, all of which can be used to identify a suspect.

In most cases, DNA evidence must be collected within the first 72 hours after the incident. Although rape kits can be highly effective in identifying the criminal, they are often ignored and left untested. This really causes us to question why the criminal justice system is not prioritizing these atrocities.

There is great controversy over the use of rape kits, and the reliability and consistency of the criminal justice system in helping the victims of such assault. There have been numerous incidents of sexual assault and rape that have gone completely untested for multiple years on end. This unfortunate reality has caused many women and their families to sue the cities in which they were raped for their insufficient action in uncovering the truth about their assault and taking the proper measures to achieve justice.

One example of this issue is the story of Heather Marlowe, who was raped at a party in San Francisco in the May of 2010. She reported the assault and had the four-hour exam immediately following the rape, yet the kit was not tested for more than two years after the rape was committed. To this day, they have yet to identify her assaulter. According to Vice News, approximately 400,000 rape kits are left untested across the country, and many victims are turning to the government and suing the cities on the basis that ignoring their DNA evidence is a violation of their human rights. The law in the state of California states that DNA evidence must be tested within 14 days of the test, yet the City of San Francisco is arguing that Marlowe’s case should be thrown out.

The real problem? Patriarchal institutions in the U.S. prevent rapists from being prosecuted. Cases of rape are not sufficiently prioritized by the law. The city of San Francisco alone has had thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits from as far back as the 1980s. It is an equal protection violation that is occurring nationwide, based on a systemic gender bias.

Rape culture on college campuses is a product of the system of patriarchy in all institutions in America. In American culture, young men are taught to be tough, unemotional, and to treat women like objects. Women’s human rights are violated every day because our societies, and the systems and institutions in which we live, learn and interact value its men over women.

By: Eliza Petrie ’20

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