A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday found that there are at least 12,669 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, the largest known backlog of its kind in the US. A September 2008 LA city controller's audit showed a backlog of approximately 7,000 kits.
The report (see PDF) is based on interviews with rape victims, rape treatment providers, police officers, public officials, and criminalists as well as data from the LA Police and Sheriff’s Departments and the 47 independent police departments in LA County. The report found that of the 12,669 kit backlog, 499 kits are past the statute of limitations in California rape law and at least 1,218 are from unsolved cases where the attacker was a stranger. It is estimated that thousands more kits have been destroyed in LA County untested. According to interviews with rape treatment providers, the report found that many victims assumed that DNA did not match in the database or that no evidence was found when they did not hear the results of their rape kit.
Sarah Tofte, the report's author, said in a press release "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….And in some cases, failure to test means that a rapist who could have been arrested will remain free."
A LA rape treatment provider told Human Rights Watch that "We go through the motions of collecting the kit, and then it doesn't get tested. Either we stop collecting rape kits, or we test every rape kit. It's now standard procedure to encourage every rape victim to report the crime and get a rape kit collected. If we think it's unconscionable to discourage a rape victim from reporting and getting a rape kit collected, then it’s unconscionable to have a rape kit backlog."
Media Resources: Human Rights Watch Report 3/31/09; Human Rights Watch Press Release 3/31/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 8/22/08
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .