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Senate Judiciary Committee Finally Commits Time and Energy to Rape

September 15, 2010

At 2:15 pm yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on rape. [caption id="attachment_10106" align="alignleft" width="362" caption="From Senate Judiciary Committee website"]senate committee[/caption] More specifically, and more importantly: at 2:15 pm yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases,”  addressing a crucially understated failing in our justice system. The hearing called upon a diverse group of sexual assault experts, women’s group organizers, professors, rape survivors, rape crisis center founders and police to provide testimony and answers. The Senate panel, comprised of the Members of the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, was persistent but sensitive, and uniformly expressed its displeasure with the status quo of law enforcement that currently exists when investigating or (more likely) not investigating reports of sexual assault. As Chairman Arlen Specter pointed out in his opening remarks, the failure to thoroughly or even adequately investigate reported rapes has been more prominent in the mainstream media as of late, which we pointed out in our blog post on the impact of Marie Claire’s rape kit story earlier this summer. It seems as though this increased media interest then caught the attention of the Subcommittee, but witnesses then pointed out that it cannot be the media’s responsibility alone to shed light on these gaping holes in the justice system—a fact that the Subcommittee took in stride. It is telling that this hearing stands out as a giant exception to the rule of “why talk about rape?” that has been so pervasive in our society. It is also, however, extremely encouraging that the Senate Judiciary Committee finally saw fit to give this crucial issue voice, and to address it with the dignity and severity that it deserves. Below, some statistics and quotes from the hearing that were live-tweeted from the Women’s Media Center twitter account :
The FBI's current definition of rape was written in 1927.
Nearly 1 in 3 Native American and Alaska Native women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. There are no illustrations given to police in rape cases handbook of acquaintance rape- only those of stranger & gang rape. Victims of rape are often asked to sign waiver of prosecution in instances of acquaintance rape because it's "too hard" to prosecute. "The scene of the crime is the body of the survivor."- Lawanda Raviora "We must commit to culture in which women feel safe to report crime, and in which perpetrators feel accountable." - Hon Susan B Carbon