Current legal system underplays rape cases

Before I begin my narrative, I want to stress that the behavior from officers that I am condemning is not behavior exhibited by all officers, nor are all officers incompetent at their job. Most, in fact, are attentive and do their job the way they should; however, statistically speaking, the amount of police officers that shirk their responsibilities have cataclysmic effects.

There have been numerous reports and documentation that demonstrate police departments’ inadequacy at investigating rape cases. In fact, a good percentage of them go “unfounded;” this legal term meaning that the cases are baseless or false. In Scottsdale, Arizona 46 percent of rape cases were declared unfounded; in Oxnard, California, over half. The statistic evidence of how many rape cases that are declared unfounded are staggering, and a great number of the offenders involved have previous sexual offenses or go on to commit more. In Baltimore County, a study investigated 42 rape case files and an analysis reported the following patterns:

• Police officers did little-to-no investigation outside of the initial interview with the victim,

• Detectives specializing in sex crimes often dismissed the allegation after reading the officer’s report without ever contacting the victim,

• Officers were dismissing cases on the basis that the victim didn’t fight back enough to establish force by the offender.

The police officers in question indicate that a victim must exhibit some sort of fight in order to convict his or her offender; however, if a victim honestly and reasonably believes that he or she may come to harm if he or she resists, how can the police officers then hold the victim responsible for his or her rape?

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports that out of every 1,000 rape incidents 334 are reported; 63 of these 334 reports lead to arrest; 13 out of the 63 arrests get referred to prosecution; seven out of the 13 prosecuted offenders get felony convictions; and six of these seven convicted offenders get incarcerated. In short, out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 rapists walk free. These numbers are positively horrifying.

It is our job as a society to educate ourselves, to promote consent and respect in the hopes that victims report these incidents; however, it is the civil duty and responsibility for our officers to act in such a way that protects victims, validates their reports, and ensures a conviction for their offenders.

When I worked at a Public Defender’s office I witnessed firsthand the hostility and bias of officers toward victims. It is no wonder why victims are afraid to come forward when the entire legal system is against them.

Every eight seconds, a sexual assault occurs in the United States, it’s an epidemic that can only be put to a halt if we all make ourselves aware of our shortcomings and improve the criminal justice system.

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