Sexual assault is one of the most common crimes committed throughout the world and is very prevalent in American culture. Rape is one of the most common forms of sexual assault. With such a high percentage of rape in today’s culture, the amount of time and effort spent on solving these cases shoots through the roof. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in seventy-one men will be raped at some point in their lifetime. This statistic is startling, but it is reality. Rape costs the United States on average $127 billion, which is more than crimes such as assault, murder, and drunk driving (NSVRC). Rape can be a very tough crime to prosecute, investigate, and present evidence for as each case is very different and there are many factors that affect it.
According the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults only 310 of those assaults are reported to police, with only 57 of those reported assaults leading to arrests. Out of those 57 arrests, only 6 people will face conviction. This means that out of every 1,000 sexual assaults 994 perpetrators will walk free, with no consequences whatsoever, and will be able to repeat the same act or worse against someone else. These statistics are startling and are one of the many reasons why people who are victims of rape are scared to report it.
With a very small conviction rate of sexual assault perpetrators, victims believe that if they report the assault, that there will be no action taken by police or prosecutors. The culture in the United States is that if someone is a rapist, they made a mistake and should receive a swat on the wrist and walk free. This leads to a distrust in police and law enforcement from victims, which does not help the effort to stop sexual assault. If sexual assaults are not reported, they cannot be investigated, and it will lead to more assaults in the future.
The lack of ability to believe that the police will apprehend the suspect is not the only reason why rapes are not reported as much as they should be. Victims of rape could be worried about unsympathetic and discomforting procedures in the investigation process and treatment from police as just another statistic. Many victims become so mentally distraught from the incident that they may believe it is their own fault for the rape happening, which is always false.
They may be led to believe from others that the way they dress was too provocative and they should have expected unwanted sexual contact, the amount of alcohol they drank made them unable to control themselves leading to a rape, or the flirting they did led the rape to happen and they should not have done any of those things. These feelings of responsibility for the incident are created by the culture that victims should conform to the idea that if they did not provoke the perpetrator’s sexual desires they would be fine. Another reason for not reporting rape is the fear of retaliation by the rapist.
If someone has become the victim of a rape and reports it, the rapist may hear about it and come after the victim and do more harm to them, especially if it a man who raped a woman who has much more power to do something harmful to the victim. Rape can cause embarrassment in the victim leading them not to report, and the embarrassment can be furthered by the media further victimizing the person who was raped. All of these reasons lead to the low numbers of rapes reported and are reasons why police and law enforcement cannot apprehend a suspect, collect evidence from the crime, or investigate it.
When dealing with a rape situation, there are many different circumstances you could encounter. When thinking of a typical rape, most would think of a woman who was victimized by a man, and fair enough as this is the most common scenario. This is not always the case, as men are raped not only by other men but can also be raped by women as well. Elderly people are also not exempt from sexual abuse, as there are many instances where elderly persons are victimized in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and even sometimes residents of these places abuse other residents. Another group that is victimized are deaf people. Deaf people are victims of sexual assault because they are often seen as handicapped and easy targets. The reason that elderly people and the deaf are some common victims of sexual assault is that they are more vulnerable to attacks and are not as likely to communicate what happened to them with others, either because they cannot or because they choose not to due to many reasons.
In the law enforcement community there are many instances of false rape allegations. Because police have to take every single accusation of rape seriously, many people that are accused falsely of rape face consequences they do not deserve. Many people falsely accuse others of rape for financial gain, to hurt someone’s reputation, or just because they thought it was funny. False accusations are very serious as they keep law enforcement from dealing with actual cases that need to be solved.
Most rape investigations typically begin when a rape is reported to police, most likely by calling the emergency number. When investigators arrive on the scene, the first thing they instinctively want to do is help the victim, whether that be comfort them and or get them medical attention, but they must remember that the victim is a crime scene themselves. With multiple forms of evidence at the scene, including hair, skin, semen, etc., the responding officer must wait if possible to give the victim attention if need be.
The officer should encourage the victim not to shower or clean themselves in any way and not to change clothes. This prevents the loss of any DNA samples that can be examined at the lab. Certain methods to prevent any loss of evidence may be used such as the bagging of hands which can prevent the loss of any skin cells or DNA under the fingernails of the victim or on the hands. If the rape was a violent attack with a fight put up by the victim, the victim may have scratched the rapist and collected skin cells under their fingernails. This type of evidence is crucial in naming the perpetrator. Many other forms of evidence are collected and used in naming and finding who the rapist is.
If the rapist has decided to not wear protection while raping the victim and decides to “finish” in the victim (ejaculates inside of them), the semen can be extracted from the victim and sperm can be examined in the lab. Through DNA typing, sperm can be traced back to a specific individual. This is why it is essential that the victim be advised to not shower and or douche after the incident happens because the sperm can be crucial in apprehending the suspect. If sperm is not found, it does not mean that a rape has not occurred, but it could mean that the rapist did not finish in the victim, or that the rape occurred long before the police responded.
In this case, a second test can be done that tests for acid phosphate which is an enzyme component of semen. “The male prostate gland produces and secrets into semen a high amount of the enzyme acid phosphatase (AP). Using a standard chemical reaction, a forensic laboratory can analyze a given stain for the presence of this enzyme” (Olson, 2011). The presence of sperm is not always found in the entrances of the victim (vagina, anus, mouth), but it can also be found on another important piece of evidence, clothing.
The clothing of the victim is very important in having if they were wearing it during the attack or were stripped of the clothes during the attack. If the victim is still wearing the clothes, the investigator should have the victim undress over a clean cloth or large paper mat so that any evidence that falls off during undressing can be collected. Every article of clothing should be collected and put in separate containers that are properly labeled and stored for analysis later in the investigation process.
The victim should be photographed before getting dressed again to document any physical abuse. Bite marks, scratches, and bruising are all examples of what could be found. Each piece of clothing could contain something important to the case, whether that be hair from the suspect, skin cells, semen, blood, and even clothing fibers that are essential in finding out who the suspect is. Depending on where the attack happened, for example if it happened outside, there could be remains of the area on clothing such as soil, pieces of foliage, seeds, and any growth of vegetation from the area.
The scene of the crime is very important to the attack as well as the evidence from the victim. Debris that occurred from the attack, tire tracks from the suspect’s car, shoe prints from the suspect’s feet are all things that should be examined and photographed. If inside, fibers from the suspect’s clothing could be on furniture, the floor, etc. If the attack happened in a car, fibers from the car seats could be found on the victim. If in an area where it is necessary and seems logical to, fingerprints should be dusted for. Anything in the area that could possibly be evidence should be collected and stored for further investigation.
Physical evidence is very important in helping solve a rape case, but evidence in the form of the victim’s recollection of what happened is just as important. The interview of the victim is a very difficult thing to do because no one knows how the victim will react to being asked such personal and intruding questions, but it is necessary in helping with the investigation. The interviewing officer should approach the victim in a caring manner, so the victim trusts the officer and is more willing to answer questions. During the interview questions should be asked about what happened, and the sequence in which the events occurred. They should ask about the verbal activity of the rapist, everything from the tone of voice to the attitude of the suspect.
In many cases, the rapist is very hostile towards the victim, calling them names and putting them down harshly. In other cases, the rapist is very complimentary and seems to care about the victim. In many cases rapists reveal something about themselves during the attack, giving the investigator important evidence to the make-up of the suspect. The verbal activity of the rapist is not the only thing that should be asked about. The verbal activity of the victim should be asked about as well. If the rapist forces the victim to say certain things, the police can put together a profile of how the suspect acts in his real life.
Verbal abuse by the rapist occurs frequently, just as theft during rape does. The rapist may take items that their DNA could be on, items of value, or personal items to remember the victim by. All of these items are important to keep track of for later on when search warrants are being issued to search the residence of the suspect for items leading to their conviction. The rapist might have other reasons for taking items, and that should be addressed later on if an interrogation takes place.
In the search for the suspect, the police can be certain that whenever they get a DNA match, that it is that specific person. This is because no one in the world besides identical twins have the same DNA structure. DNA testing of the suspect can only be as good as the methods used. Some methods are outdated, while present methods used are more accurate in determining the structure of the suspect’s DNA. Collecting the DNA of a suspect can be tricky to do because of certain legal principles, but those have been worked around and specific practices are used to get around these legalities.