Archive for January, 2010

Hearing on Rape Kit Backlog 12-16-09

January 20, 2010

This is a little late…but Congress did have a hearing on the Rape Kit Backlog before they broke for Recess. This article was written in response to it. I am hoping now that Congress is back in session we will start hearing more about it.

I am looking forward to my conversation with Human Rights Watch on Friday. We will be discussing more plans on how to help the Bill pass.

It was nice to see on the 3rd Year Anniversary of my rape (also my Birthday) that this was being talked….it can change the outcome of my case and the cases of thousands of other Rape Victims!

Source: http://www.msmagazine.com/news/uswirestory.asp?ID=12126

December 16, 2009

 

Congressional Hearing Held on Rape Kit Backlog

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing yesterday on the national rape kit backlog, the reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act, and current legislation introduced in the Senate that is intended to incentivize the processing of rape kits. hearing

Committee Chair Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in his statement, “No matter how much money we send to crime labs for testing, if samples that could help make cases instead sit on the shelf in police evidence rooms and never make it to the lab, that money will do no good. Police officers must understand the importance of testing this vital evidence and must learn when testing is appropriate and necessary…there must be national standards, protocols, and best practices giving clear guidance to police officers about when kits and other relevant DNA samples must go to labs. Every jurisdiction must have real incentives to provide comprehensive training and put into place these standards for the officers who handle DNA evidence.”

The Senate bill, the “Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act,” introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was addressed in the hearing. If passed, the act would require that states pay the cost of rape kit examinations upfront, that survivors are informed of their right to a free rape kit examination, and creates monetary incentives to reduce rape kit backlogs, process rape kits quickly, and report backlog numbers. It also creates a nation-wide annual reporting mechanism for rape kit backlogs, funds the training of sexual assault forensic medical personnel, and defines “trained examiner” in a way that will allow rural and tribal areas, where incidence of rape is disproportionately high, to access grant funds. There is also a version of the bill introduced in the House.

According to Human Rights Watch, there are approximately 200,000 reported rapes each year and, in most cases, DNA evidence is collected and stored in a “rape kit.” In 2004, Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act, which authorized the use of federal funds to test DNA kits. However, the law did not specify that the DNA kits be rape kits. Currently, Los Angeles has a backlog of over 12,500 untested rape kits in spite of having received about $8 million Debbie Smith Act funds. Other cities, such as Detroit, have a backlog of 10,000 untested rape kits or more. There are no current national statistics regarding the number of untested rape kits, because no state or federal laws mandate law enforcement agencies collect this information. Some estimates suggest the total number of untested kits is over 180,000.

Debbie Smith herself testified at the hearing, saying, “each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere…Can you imagine going through an exam like what goes on in one of those things for nothing? To know that you were just traumatized again, for it to sit on a shelf, it’s not fair,” according to CBS News.

Media Resources: CBS News 12/15/09; Senator Patrick Leahy Statement 12/15/09; Human Rights Watch 11/5/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/9/09

Craziness!!!

January 20, 2010

Today has been insane and unfortunately it is probably just a glimpse of what the next two days will be like!

My meeting with Human Rights Watch about Washington DC, the Audio Project, etc. got rescheduled for Friday.
I was anticipating my interview with WHAS 11 being on Thursday so I spent most of the day re-working my schedule (which was full of meetings) so I could take the day off. Then about an hour ago I found out they would like to do it on Friday instead…so I had to rearrange my calendar again.

Thursday:
  Work
  Knee Surgeon
  Clean House for Interview

Friday:
  Work in the AM
  Meeting with Human Rights Watch
  Taping with WHAS 11 (my house, the Superbowl, and then the house it happened at)

The nerves are starting to set in. I am freaking out more or less! I am nervous in general about being on TV….but on top of that I am not thrilled about going back to the house it happened at. I haven’t been there since that night. I am also concerned about potentially needing knee surgery. I am not sure how I could possibly fit that into my schedule.

Anyways although it can be stressful and I sometimes question whether or not I really want to continue on my “journey” raising awareness and fighting for change….I truly believe in what I’m doing and I am glad to be a part of it. ONE DAY AT A TIME :)

WHAS 11 Taping on Thursday

January 19, 2010

I heard today from the reporter at WHAS 11. They are planning on taping this coming Thursday…to be confirmed later tonight. It should be a busy day so I am planning on taking a vacation day. They want to interview me outside of where it happened. I am not so sure about that one…it will be the first time I will be back there. It is definitely adding to my nerves! We are also planning on going to the Kentucky Crime Lab to see all the backlogged Rape Kits. I am excited about this. I believe it will be a real eye-opening experience. Finally they would like me to go back and appear on their set with them. I’m looking forward to finding out all details later tonight/early tomorrow.

Unfortunately I won’t have time to buy a new outfit and get my hair done this time….not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing :) Last time I spent entirely too much money!

I will post the details when I hear more.

SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) and TBTN (Take Back the Night)

January 18, 2010

SAAM = Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

April is the Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I plan to make an extra effort to spread awareness during this time. Lawerenceburg, Indiana is having a TBTN (Take Back the Night Event) in April. They have asked me if I would be willing to help with the event. This is one of several I have been contacted about since joining the RAINN’s Speakers Bureau….it is also the closet. I would LOVE to get a group of people who are supporting me and the cause to go up with me! Here is some more information:
Date: 4/22/10
Description: Take Back the Night
Location: Dearborn Adult Center
Event Name:
City: Lawrenceburg
State: IN
Time: 5:30pm-8:00pm
You can email me at vmneumann@gmail.com to let me know if you are interested in going. I will find out more information as the date approaches.
History/Information on TBTN:
(Source: http://www.takebackthenight.org/TBTNEventGuidebook2009-12-14.pdf

The Mission of the Take Back The Night Foundation

  

The Take Back The Night Foundation seeks to end sexual violence in all of its forms including

  

sexual assault, sexual abuse, dating violence, and domestic violence. TBTN empowers 

survivors in the healing process and inspires responsibility in all. The goal of TBTN is to create 

safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.

Let There be Light!

  

 

The Take Back The Night Foundation’s supporters have always understood the power of

  

speaking out. Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and domestic violence are often labeled 

“crimes of silence” because of low reporting rates and social discomfort with their public 

discussion. By illuminating these issues, the Take Back The Night Foundation’s nationwide 

events and initiatives help survivors know that they are not alone, and that these crimes will not 

be tolerated or left to go silently into the night. 

Small Community, Big Change

  

aprovideLocally organized, creative events are one of the hallmarks of Take Back the Night and

  

source of great empowerment to survivors of sexual violence. From a robust march, rally and 

speak-out to a quiet candlelight vigil, hundreds of communities across the country each year 

host events that pave the way from victim to survivor for many! 

 

Unfortunate News…

January 17, 2010

This is unfortunate…and all the more reason why The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 needs to be passed!!!

Source:  http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/01/15/us-los-angeles-backtracks-promise-deliver-justice-rape-victims

City Leaders Deny Funds for Crime Lab Personnel

January 15, 2010
2009_UnitedStates_rapekit.jpg

A crime lab analyst applies chemicals to extract the DNA from a swab that was in the rape kit.

© 2009 Patricia Williams

//

The city, through the budget process, promised to hire the crime lab personnel needed to test in a timely way every booked rape kit and to upload the test results into the DNA database. The city has broken its promise.

Sarah Tofte, US Program researcher

(Los Angeles, January 15, 2010) – The announcement today by city leaders that new crime lab positions approved in this year’s budget will not be funded makes it impossible for the Los Angeles Police Department to eliminate its backlog of untested DNA in rape cases, Human Rights Watch said today.

The 26 new crime lab positions were approved by City Council in May 2009, despite a near hiring freeze, at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The police maintained that the positions were necessary to address a backlog of 7,000 untested sets of physical evidence in rape cases, known as rape kits, and to develop a long-term solution for efficient and effective rape kit testing. For the first time since the positions were approved, the city acknowledged today that the positions have not been funded and will not be filled.

“This announcement undermines public trust in the city’s commitment to eliminate the rape kit backlog and bring real justice to rape victims,” said Sarah Tofte, US Program researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of a March 2009 report on the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles. “The city, through the budget process, promised to hire the crime lab personnel needed to test in a timely way every booked rape kit and to upload the test results into the DNA database. The city has broken its promise.”

DNA technology is one of law enforcement’s most powerful forensic tools. It can provide a match with an unknown suspect, confirm the identity of a known suspect, affirm the details of a victim’s report, and exonerate innocent suspects. Timely testing of rape kits can be critical to bringing justice to sexual assault victims. Rape cases are often difficult to solve or prosecute effectively without this forensic evidence. National studies have shown that cases in which a rape kit is collected, tested, and contains DNA evidence are more likely to move forward in the criminal justice system.

The LAPD has made substantial progress in using outside labs to test the majority of backlogged rape kits, but outsourcing alone will not solve the problem. By federal law, public crime lab personnel must review the test results of privately outsourced kits before the test results can be entered into the public DNA database. Outsourced rape kits wait an average of 72 days after testing before they are reviewed by crime lab personnel.

Without additional crime lab personnel the police cannot review the outsourced kits within a reasonable time, creating a growing secondary backlog of kits for which testing is not complete. Until testing is complete, the results are uploaded to the public DNA database, and DNA matches investigated, justice will continue to elude rape victims.

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti introduced a motion today to redirect some of the funds already lost due to the delay in hiring the crime lab personnel to outsourcing testing of rape kits to private crime labs. Human Rights Watch urges the city to reinstate approval for the additional personnel and to allocate the remainder of those funds to the LAPD, which should in turn hire those personnel immediately.

Last spring, the City Council made a commitment to provide regular oversight over the way the new funding for elimination of the rape kit backlog was spent and the actual progress made. The loss of funding for these crime lab positions is due in part to their failure to provide such oversight. Human Rights Watch urges the City Council to renew its commitment to oversight in order to regain the public’s trust.

“Merely outsourcing the rape kits does not provide justice for past, present, and future rape victims,” Tofte said. “This is a huge blow to policymakers, advocates, rape victims, and law enforcement across the country who hoped that Los Angeles would be a national model for other jurisdictions tackling their rape kit backlogs. Los Angeles is instead showing others what not to do.”

Call for Help…

January 17, 2010

As of today there are….

  34 Co-Sponsors for H.R.4114 (Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 Act in the House of Reps)
    0 Co-Sponsors for S.2736 (Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 Act in the Senate)

Tomorrow January 18th Congress will come out of Recess. It is my hope that this bill will start to get a lot more attention. The biggest priority right now is to get more Co-Sponsors. You can help by writing to them and encouraging them to Co-Sponsor the bill. Currently none of our Congressman/woman in the Tri-State area are sponsoring the bills.
Below is a link to a site which provides you an easy way to write your congressman/woman. It has an already drafted letter to send….all you have to do is give your information and any additional comments…then click send! It literally takes a few seconds and can make a huge difference!!!

Link to Letter…
http://www.kintera.org/c.nlIWIgN2JwE/b.5706887/k.37FC/Eliminate_the_Rape_Kit_Backlog/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx

Example Letter:
I urge you to support and co-sponsor the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009, a bipartisan bill to eliminate the rape kit backlog.

Every year, more than 200,000 individuals report their rape to the police. Almost all are asked to have a rape kit collected. It is an invasive and sometimes traumatic process that takes four to six hours to complete. But the potential benefits are enormous: testing of the DNA evidence in a rape kit can identify an unknown perpetrator, confirm the presence of a known assailant, corroborate the victim’s account of the rape, and exonerate innocent suspects. Unfortunately, in the United States today there are an estimated 400,000-500,000 untested rape kits sitting in police evidence storage facilities and crime labs across the country.

Given that rape has the lowest reporting, arrest, and prosecution rates of all violent crimes in the United States, the revolution in DNA technology could strengthen the criminal justice response. As National studies have shown, cases in which a rape kit was collected, tested and found to contain DNA evidence are more likely to move forward in the criminal justice system. For example, when New York City began to test every booked rape kit the arrest rate for rape skyrocketed from 40 percent to 70 percent of reported cases.

Conversely, untested rape kits typically represent lost justice for rape victims, as they often mean a rape investigation was cut short before the offender could be brought to justice. Rape kit testing is not just useful in “stranger rapes,” but is also especially useful to corroborate a victim’s account in the majority of rapes, so-called “acquaintance rapes.”

In 2004 Congress attempted to eliminate the rape kit backlog by passing the Debbie Smith Act, but more is needed. The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 will solve the rape kit backlog by requiring law enforcement to prioritize rape kit testing and account for the number of untested rape kits in their storage facilities, and will help ensure a victim’s experience in the aftermath of a sexual assault is as painless as possible.

Please support and co-sponsor the bipartisan Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I really appreciate it.
BTW…I have a meeting with Human Rights Watch this coming Wednesday so I should find out more about the audio project, trip to D.C., and other activities they are planning. Stay Tuned :)

Congressman Sponsors H.R.4114

January 17, 2010

Another Congressman has stepped up to Co-Sponsor H.R.4114 (The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009).

Thanks Congressman Alcee Hastings :)

http://alceehastings.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=425

The Healing Phases of Rape

January 16, 2010

I found this today and thought it was interesting. I think it is pretty true. I can relate to it. I believe in the acute phase I feel under the Shocked Disbelief category. I couldn’t concentrate…my grades at school slipped. I had no energy to do anything…not even clean my room and for those of you that know me…not wanting to clean room was a big deal. During the Outward Adjustment Phase I tended to try and minimize what happened along with suppressing it. I also continually played through it in my head trying to analyze what happened and why. I didn’t understand it! I would like to believe that I am in the Resolution Phase…moving on with my life and fighting for change. I will admit though that I still have my moments where it all gets to me. The anniversary is always hard.

Source: http://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault/rape-trauma-syndrome

Rape Trauma Syndrome

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Rape Trauma Syndrome is a common reaction to a rape or sexual assault. It is the human reaction to an unnatural or extreme event.

There are three phases to Rape Trauma Syndrome

  1. Acute Phase

    This phase occurs immediately after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase individuals can have many reactions but they typically fall into three categories of reactions:

    1. Expressed- This is when the survivor is openly emotional. He or she may appear agitated or hysterical, he or she may suffer from crying spells or anxiety attacks.
    2. Controlled- This is when the survivor appears to be without emotion and acts as if “nothing happened” and “everything is fine.” This appearance of calm may be shock.
    3. Shocked Disbelief- This is when the survivor reacts with a strong sense of disorientation. He or she may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or doing everyday tasks. He or she may also have poor recall of the assault.
  2. The Outward Adjustment Phase

    During this phase the individual resumes what appears to be his or her “normal” life but inside is suffering from considerable turmoil. In this phase there are five primary coping techniques:

    1. Minimization- Pretends that “everything is fine” or that “it could have been worse.”
    2. Dramatization- Cannot stop talking about the assault and it is what dominates their life and identity.
    3. Suppression- Refuses to discuss, acts as if it did not happen.
    4. Explanation- Analyzes what happened- what the individual did, what the rapist was thinking/feeling.
    5. Flight- Tries to escape the pain (moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships, etc.).

    There are many symptoms or behaviors that appear during this phase including:

    • Continuing anxiety
    • Severe mood swings
    • Sense of helplessness
    • Persistent fear or phobia
    • Depression
    • Rage
    • Difficulty sleeping (nightmares, insomnia, etc.)
    • Eating difficulties (nausea, vomiting, compulsive eating, etc.)
    • Denial
    • Withdrawal from friends, family, activities
    • Hypervigilance
    • Reluctance to leave house and/or go places that remind the individual of the assault
    • Sexual problems
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Flashbacks

    All of these symptoms and behaviors may make the individual more willing to seek counseling and/or to discuss the assault.

  3. The Resolution Phase

    During this phase the assault is no longer the central focus of the individual’s life. While he or she may recognize that he or she will never forget the assault; the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time. Often the individual will begin to accept the rape as part of his or her life and chooses to move on.

NOTE: This model assumes that individuals will take steps forward and backwards in their healing process and that while there are phases it is not a linear progression and will be different for every person.

Flashbacks…A Side Effect of Rape

January 14, 2010

I experienced Flashbacks after being Raped! They are horrible it is like reliving the event over and over again. I had problems falling asleep because I couldn’t get the “images” or “his” voice out of my head. When I did fall asleep I would often wake up from a nightmare. I found this information extremely helpful. The RAINN’s website is a great source for information about Rape.  

  • Recognize what would make you feel more safe. Wrap yourself in a blanket, shut yourself in a room, whatever it takes to feel as if you are secure. 
        
    My safe place was a big grey sweatshirt. I put it on whenever I was feeling unsecure. I think I wore it for two straight weeks after leaving the hospital that night. It was/is my safety blanket!
  • Source:  http://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault/flashbacks 

    Flashbacks

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    What are Flashbacks?

    Flashbacks are when memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. These memories can take many forms: dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere and, therefore, blurs the lines between past and present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, powerless, or any other emotions that they felt at the time of the trauma. 

     Some flashbacks are mild and brief, a passing moment, while others may be powerful and last a long time. Many times the individual does not even realize that he or she is having a flashback and may feel faint or dissociate. 

    What Helps During a Flashback?

    If you realize that you are in the middle of a flashback: 

    • Tell yourself that you are having a flashback and remind yourself that the actual event is over and you survived.
    • Breathe. Take slow, deep breaths by putting your hand on your stomach and taking deep enough breaths that your hand moves out with the inhalations and in with the exhalations. This is important because when we panic our body begins to take short, shallow breaths and the decrease in oxygen that accompanies this change increases our panicked state. So increasing the oxygen in our system can help us to get out of the anxious state we are in.
    • Return to the present. Take time to use your five senses to establish where you are in the present. Look around you and take note of the colors in the room. Listen to the sounds that are happening around you. Smell the smells that are in the room with you. Feel the clothes on your skin and take note of how different parts of your body feel (hands, feet, etc.).
    • Recognize what would make you feel more safe. Wrap yourself in a blanket, shut yourself in a room, whatever it takes to feel as if you are secure.
    • Get the support of people you can trust. If you can, ask someone for help and support in this time of vulnerability.
    • Take the time to recover. Let yourself have the time to get back to feeling comfortable and in the present. This may take a while and that is ok. If you like, take a nap, some time for yourself, or whatever it is that would help you feel safe and more comfortable.
    • Be good to yourself. Know that you are not crazy and are not doing anything wrong- it takes time to heal.

    Depression…A Side Effect of Rape

    January 13, 2010

    Depression is one of the many possible side effects from being Raped. It is quite common to become depressed afterwards because you are feeling so many different emotions…..anger, sadness, blame, fear, ashamed, etc.

    Source:  http://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault/depression

    Depression

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    There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims of rape and sexual assault can experience. One of the most common of these is depression.

    The term “depression” can be confusing since many of the symptoms are experienced by people as normal reactions to events in their life. At some point or another during one’s life, everyone feels sad or “blue.” This also means that recognizing depression can be difficult since the symptoms can easily be attributed to other causes. These feelings are perfectly normal, especially during difficult times.

    Depression becomes something more than just normal feelings of sadness when the symptoms last for more than two weeks. Therefore, if you experience five or more of the symptoms of depression over the course of two weeks you should consider talking to your doctor about what you are experiencing.

    The symptoms for depression include:
    • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
    • Change in appetite with significant weight loss (without dieting) or weight gain
    • Loss of energy or persistent fatigue or lethargy
    • Significant change in sleep patterns (insomnia, sleeping too much, fitful sleep, etc.)
    • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, social withdrawal.
    • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or inappropriate guilt
    • Pessimism or indifference
    • Unexplained aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches)
    • Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
    • Irritability, worry, anger, agitation, or anxiety
    • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

    Depression can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it is not something that someone can make him/herself “snap out of.”


    Reference:
    American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Text Revision, fourth edition, 2000

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