About 30 years ago, my sweet, elderly aunt for whom I was named was brutally beaten and raped in the country church where I was baptized and where five generations of my ancestors are buried. She had gone there on a Saturday morning to practice the organ selections for the next day. A neighboring farmer and family friend found her naked and barely alive on the church steps. She survived to bear witness in a courtroom where they acquitted her rapist. No DNA evidence was supplied. The following week, all of the witnesses that provided an alibi for her rapist received new cars from the car dealership belonging to the rapist’s father. Rape is usually a serial offense. Eventually, he was convicted after raping a young woman after her car broke down, stranding her on the highway. DNA evidence from a rape kit finally nailed him and thankfully, he is now in prison.
The young man who date-raped my little sister when she was in high school is still out there. A rape kit might have convicted him. We know that one in four rape kits results in conviction, a reason that former Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Tim McGinty, calls rape kits “the best bargain in the history of law enforcement.”
Posted in campus safety, ignoring evidence, On Campus, Rape, rape kits, Sexual Assault, state budget issues, violence against women
Tagged campus safety, ignoring evidence, nc budget issues, Rape, rape kits, Sexual Assault
NC may have the most untested rape kits in the nation (15,160 reported from 92% of law enforcement agency reports submitted). It is clear that too many rape kits are going unprocessed in NC and the NC General Assembly is not providing money to test or to track them, even in the face of this astounding backlog. It is also significant that none were reported from any universities (according to the report from Attorney General Josh Stein’s office). But when rapes are reported in NC, the state is falling down on the job – not processing the evidence and actually sometimes throwing away the evidence. Ignoring the evidence causes more damage in the long run, allowing rapists to run amok in NC and move on to other states. And there are many advantages of testing them as soon as possible.
“Every $1 spent on the analysis of a kit returns $81 from averted future assaults.”
The 81 to 1 savings is according to an article reviewing the research of two Stanford University professors published “Analyzing approaches to the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in the USA,” 3/5/18, Journal of Forensic Science. The article also states that the $81 may be a conservative estimate and it could go as high as $3,000 for every $1 spent. The professors estimate that there are around 400,000 untested sexual assault kits in the backlog in the U.S.A.
Sexual Assault Kits on display at NC NOW State Conference in 2017. Photo Credit: Catherine Evangelista
Their reviews of police data for jailed perpetrators suggest that the average number of assault victims per assailant is around 26. The cost of testing a kit ranges from $700 to $1500.
“Why are there so many untested rape kits in NC?” People have asked in response to an article on who initiated the rape kit inventory in NC and to posts about #endthebacklog and the documentary “I Am Evidence” that examines the problem of untested rape kits and is being shown on HBO at 8pm on 4/16/18.
The problem is there’s no rule on who foots the bill for rape kit testing across the country — it depends on the state and city you live in.
According to “NC may have more untested rape kits now than any state. Advocates want answers.” News and Observer, 3/7/18,
“California and Florida currently are reported as having more than 13,000 untested kits.”
Looks like NC has a sordid history with not bothering to test them. According to the same N&O article on untested rape kits,
NOW Charlotte was well represented at the Mecklenburg County Commissioner’s meeting on March 20, 2018, supporting county opposition to 287g. The federal 287g program is a collaboration between state or local law enforcement and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal program that allows local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement duties. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has deported over 15,000 people in Mecklenburg County. NOW Charlotte signed onto an anti-287g letter that was signed by over 40 organizations demanding the end of the program.
NC NOW Newsletter for February and March 2018 includes stories of how people in Fayetteville got that untested rape kit inventory done (with Fayetteville NOW’s help), some events around the state (Trauma to Prison Pipeline Report, Title IX at FSU), national events on #EnoughIsEnough and the next US Supreme Court case, NIFLA v. Becerra, on what CPCs can say in California. Currently CPCs need to tell the truth in California, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates are suing to change that!
See the newsletter online at NC NOW Newsletter for February and March 2018.
Many North Carolinians learned that there are 15,160 untested ‘sexual assault evidence collection kits’ (SAECK) left in North Carolina on February 28, 2018. These kits, also known as ‘rape kits’ were inventoried as part of the 2017 state budget, thanks to a bill that was spearheaded by the executive director of a Rape Crisis center in Cumberland County, Deanna Gerdes. Prior to the inventory, no one knew how many untested ‘sexual assault evidence collection kits’ there were across NC. Gerdes worked with Lt. John Somerindyke, Fayetteville Police Department’s Special Victims Unit commander, who discovered the problem in the first place and leads a unit to solve these crimes. Other key supporters were bill sponsor state Rep. Billy Richardson, D-Cumberland; Roberta Waddle, a long time officer of Fayetteville NOW and NC NOW; and Gerdes’ daughter, Kathryn. Attorney General Josh Stein announced the count on 2/28/18, and has great recommendations going forward what to do. NC is finally making progress on untested rape kits, thanks these heroes in Fayetteville.
Deanna Gerdes at Podium, SBA Celebration with Fayetteville NOW. Photo Credit: Gailya Paliga
Gerdes and Somerindyke have talked about their journeys to getting this bill written and passed at a few events with NC NOW and the Fayetteville NOW chapters in the past 6 months. On Feb 22, 2018, the Fayetteville chapter of the National Organization for Women held their 18th annual Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Birthday Celebration, where they honored Gerdes and Somerindyke for their work on the passage of this bill. Some of their journey is captured in “Fighting for statewide sexual assault survivor justice: Gerdes and Somerindyke honored at Fayetteville NOW event,” which was the cover story in the 2/6/18 issues of Up and Coming Weekly, a community paper in Fayetteville. Gerdes and Somerindyke also did a workshop at NC NOW’s state conference last October on grassroots work to pass the auditing of the Sexual Assault kits. More about their workshop and the conference at “Mobilizing Women NOW – Totally Worth It! Summary.”
Upcoming ‘rape crisis sensitivity’ trainings in Fayetteville advertised at Fayetteville NOW’s Susan B. Anthony Celebration on 2/28/18. Become informed about rape and sexual assault, find out how you can help survivors.
Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County works closely with Fayetteville NOW. More on SBA Celebration and work that Fayetteville NOW and the Rape Crisis Center have done together on rape kits in next posts.
At a “Shine A Light on Sexual Assault” program in 2016, “Ze Surratt II, from the Cumberland County Rape Crisis Center, said the organization was founded in 1976 when there was a realization that sexual assault survivors needed additional assistance beyond police and doctors.” Read more about the event at Program seeks to assist survivors of sexual assault,” Fayetteville Observer, 5/1/16. Surratt is still involved with the center, and with organizing these trainings.
Volunteers must attend both classes – one set in March 2018, and one set in May 2018. See more information on the flyer.
This 18th annual Susan B. Anthony event will honor Deanne Gerdes, Executive Director of Rape Crisis of Cumberland County RCCC, and Lt. John Somerindyke, of Fayetteville Police Department’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit. Gerdes and Somerindyke are being thanked for all they have done to further the progress of cold rape cases by initiating coordinating efforts with local legislators relative to untested rape kits.
Sexual Assault Kit from display at 2017 NC NOW Conference Photo Credit: Catherine Evangelista
Date: Thursday, Feb 22, 2018
Place: VFW Post 6018, 116 Chance St., Fayetteville NC
Registration: Use this form, which you can see below.
Fayetteville’s local weekly periodical, “Up and Coming” featured an article about the event, “Fighting for statewide sexual assault survivor justice: Gerdes and Somerindyke honored at Fayetteville NOW event.”
In 1974 Beryl Mitchell was murdered in Fayetteville by her active duty military husband. They had two young children. Until nine years ago her grave had no headstone. Then her daughter, Christine Horne returned to Fayetteville to dedicate a headstone for Beryl’s grave. At that time, some members of Fayetteville NOW (National Organization for Women) vowed to lay a wreath
on her grave each year in her memory.
Here are the specifics for the 2017 wreath-laying ceremony.
Date: Saturday, Dec 2, 2017
Place: Lafayette Memorial Park and Mausoleum, 2301 Ramsey Street
Wreath and sign from 2016 wreath laying ceremony Photo Credit: Fay. NOW
Unfortunately Beryl Mitchell is not alone as a victim of domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the US,
According to CNN, “One fifth of Americans know someone who said #MeToo,” 11/9/17. “You don’t have to be a young and beautiful film star to be harassed and humiliated.” Do you have a story to share?
Tuesdays With Tillis Protester! Photo Credit: Stacie Borrello
Tuesdays With Tillis theme of #MeToo and sexual harassment/sexual assault. The topic is “Stop the Assaults, Stop the Violence.” Contact president at raleighnow.org if you have a story to share – which you could do in person, or by sending your story for someone else to read. Whether or not you want to share a story, join us to witness, and take action.
Date: Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017
Place: 310 New Bern Ave, the Federal Building