Quick Reflection…A few years ago you rarely would have heard about victims of sexual violence or the thousands of Rape Kits untested…Today it is getting a lot of media attention. I’d like to think my efforts a couple years ago are a part of the reason! An important bill is being sent to the President to sign into Law this week…I was honored to get to testify in one of the Congressional Hearings regarding this bill! Proud Moment! Everyone can make a difference if your passionate about something!!!!
This Organization and others helped me immensely after my attack! They need our help….Please take a minute out of your day to make a phone call : )
–> URGENT Action Alert: Please call your Senator TODAY to support funding for the National Sexual Assault Hotline programs operated by RAINN!
–> Contact Information: You can find contact information for your two U.S. Senators here: http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
–> Why?: The Senate will soon vote on an omnibus spending bill that would fund VOCA (Victims of Crime Act), VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), and related programs (and has funding in it for RAINN!) through fiscal year 2011. It is critically important to survivors that this bill pass, and we have received word that passage of this bill is at risk. We encourage you to contact your two U.S. Senators to urge them to vote “yes” on the omnibus that will be considered soon.
PLEASE ACT NOW!
–> What do I say?: Call your two U.S. Senators and tell the staff assistant who answers the phone that a “yes” vote is needed on the omnibus bill, and that sexual assault services are vitally important to you and your community.
It was this time a year ago that I started my journey…and what a journey it has been. I have been blessed with so many unique opportunities to speak out about something I am so passionate about.
I am extremely grateful to CBS, Human Rights Watch, and RAINN for their belief in me. I am thankful for the support from family, friends, co-workers, and those I have never even met before!
I hope I have inspired women!!!
This year I look on to other exciting adventures in my life…marriage, graduating, buying a home, etc. I will always be an advocate for Rape Victims whether I am walking the halls of Congress and appearing on Television or by simply staying current on the topic from the privacy of my own home.
Thank You from the bottom of my Heart for such an AMAZING year!!! It was a Fulfilling and Gratifying Experience I will NEVER forget! I am excited to see what the future holds…
Please continue to use the sight…It is a great resource for information!
Last weeks Hearing was a truly amazing experience. I am so grateful to so many people….my boyfriend, family & friends, co-workers, RAINN, Human Rights Watch, CBS Evening News, and the private sponsors what have paid for my trips to DC.
I was in DC for roughly 24 hours…but it was definetely a busy 24 hours. I got in around midnight on Wednesday and woke up at 6:00am on Thursday to get ready. The hearing started at 9:00am. When we walked into the hearing room is when my nerves really kicked in. It was so busy I didn’t have much time to really dwell on them though. Chairman Scott started off with an introduction and explanation of why we were their. Then the first panel started with their testimonies. The first panel consisted of several Representatives including Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Weiner. There weren’t any questions for the 1st panel so we moved on to the 2nd panel.
The 2nd panel included myself, a Prosecutor and former Judge, Mariska, a representative from the FBI, and someone from a private lab. I was the 2nd to give their testimony. I thought I did pretty well…although I did go longer than my 5 minutes. There were a few questions after the 2nd panel. It was during this questioning that was probably the most rememberable for me.
I have now been advocating since back in October….and this entire time I have made peace that I would probably never see justice for my case since the Prosecutor Attorneys office had made that very clear. I was OK with this; because I knew although I may never see justice I was hopefully helping many other woman get the justice they deserve. I NOW have renewed HOPE!!! Representative Weiner was clearly irate after listening to my testimony. He couldn’t believe how my case had been handled….as CBS Evening News put it: “He raked the prosecutor over the coals!” They said they would supeona the prosecutor for the Rape Kit and that they personally would come up with the money to pay for it to be tested.
He and the other members were dead serious too. Immediately after the hearing they all wanted to know the name of the prosecutor. Representative Weiner office asked if I could send him my case file ASAP. In a matter of minutes I went from being at peace never seeing justice to having renewed hope that it could happen. It was nerve-recking and to be completely honest a little scary.
After the hearing was a whirlwind. I was being pulled in every direction! The prosecutor who testified wanted my contact information. The Representatives were all introducing themselves and asking questions about my case. I was talking to Congressmen Weiner and his staff about their follow-up statements. Armen from CBS was trying to get some questions for an interview in. Chairman Scott wanted us all to join in the back for a few minutes to talk next steps. Mariska’s husband introduced himself. It was GREAT! I really felt like I helped make a difference.
Once everyone left the Hearing room I grabbed lunch with Human Rights Watch and RAINN. On the way to lunch ABC called to see if I could give a quick interview to go along with their coverage of the hearing. I took a taxi over to their studios and then we did an interview outside of the National Geographic Museum. I was hesitant at first…since I have been working so closely with CBS, however; I figured the more coverage the more awareness we will raise. I also didn’t tell ABC anything that CBS hadn’t already aired.
By the time I got done with ABC it was time to head to the airport. I didn’t get home until after midnight on Thursday….but I had to stay up to watch the CBS and ABC segments before I could go to bed even though I had to wake up at 5:00am for work the next morning 🙂
Here are a few pictures:
CBS Evening News Segment:
ABC World-Wide News Segment:
Part of my Testimony on ABCnews.com:
Click my name under the Witness List to read my Testimony or click Video Webcast to watch it, long but worth it….my testimony is in the Middle and the end is a must see (you have to download Real One for it to work).
It has been an exhausting couple of days….but DEFINETELY WELL WORTH IT!!!
I can’t wait to write a blog all about the experience (hopefully tomorrow). I wish everyone could have been at the Congressional Hearing today! It was truly once in a lifetime opportunity which I am so thankful to be a part of. I will also be uploading links for ALL the stories which were ran today…. Including CBS Evening News, ABC Worldwide News, Video of the Testimony, My written Testimony, etc.
SO PLEASE CHECK BACK!
Thanks Again to Everyone for the AMAZING Support! It is VERY INSPIRING 🙂
US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
“Rape Kit Backlogs: Failing the Test of Providing Justice to Sexual Assault
May 20, 2010
Good morning, and thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak in front of you
I would like to start by telling you a little about myself. My name is Valerie Neumann. I live in Cincinnati, OH. I am in school getting my master’s in Business Management; and I also work full time for Procter and Gamble.
This past December was my birthday–and the three year anniversary of when I was raped. For my birthday in 2006, a friend of mine took me out to dinner. After dinner, she asked me if I wanted to join her boyfriend and his friends, most of whom I had never met, for drinks at a bar nearby. When we arrived one particular man, an acquaintance of my co-worker’s boyfriend, immediately started buying me drinks. The drinks made me very sick (the nurse at the hospital would later describe what I began to feel as similar to what a date rape drug feels like), and so my friend took me to her home. Some people from the bar decided to go over to her house, too.
When we got there my friend helped me upstairs and made me comfortable in the bathroom. Later that evening I remember my friend yelling at her boyfriend to make sure all the guests were out of the house before she went to bed. The two of them then went to bed. Everyone but the man who bought me the drinks at the bar had left. He had other plans. At some point later at night he came into the bathroom and lay down behind me. He kept asking me if I wanted to go down to the couch with him. I was so sick, but I was able to tell him no. When I refused he tried sliding his hands down my pants and up my shirt. I remember telling him over and over again…. “No! No! I don’t feel good.”
I had thought that I eventually got him to leave me alone. I was wrong. When I woke up the next morning my pants and underwear were around my ankles and my bra was unfastened. I knew something was very wrong; but at the time I was so sick, confused, and scared the pieces weren’t coming together. It wasn’t until I got home and undressed to take a shower that reality really sank in. I found a large friction burn on the back of my neck, bruises of finger indentations around each of my wrist, and scratches on my back. I went to show a good friend of mine the marks and ask her opinion. She told me I needed to go to the hospital. I realize it is silly now but at the time I just wanted to forget anything had happened that night. I was scared to face reality. I had just started a great job, I had plans to go back to school, I had so many things to look forward to. The last thing I needed was this. Although I wanted to just pretend nothing happened; I knew what I needed to do. I called my parents and they met me outside my house. I told them that I thought I had been raped. We immediately headed for the hospital.
The police officers and social workers at the hospital said I needed to have a rape kit taken. I gave a statement to the police officers while waiting for the SANE nurse to arrive at the hospital.
The collection of the Rape Kit is a 4 to 6 hour process of pulling hairs, swabbing, and taking pictures. It took longer than I had expected, and it was very hard to go through. My only consolation was that this exam could be used to put my rapists behind bars. The SANE Nurse put in her report that she had found evidence of forced sexual penetration. I had lots of redness and a tear around my vaginal area. The police officers who took my statement at the hospital asked me about the person who raped me. I didn’t know his name, only his nickname. But when I gave them a physical description of him, they told me and my father that they knew the guy I was talking about—he had done this sort of thing before. The police officers called their detective and he went to my friend’s house that night with a warrant to collect evidence.
The next morning I had to go to the police station to give an official statement to the detective. Unfortunately, after I gave my statement, I didn’t hear from the police again for a very long time. I had to fight to get any information. I started by calling every other day, then once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. Many phone calls were never returned. It was exhausting to be my own advocate. It took a year for the Detective to send the case to the Prosecuting attorney’s office; 6 months after that the prosecuting attorney told me they wouldn’t be trying my case, because they had decided it was unwinnable, given that I had been drinking the night of my rape and it was an acquaintance rape. I tried to explain that I had not even known the man’s name until the police told it to me, but the prosecutor had seemed to make up his mind. Case closed.
What was perhaps hardest is that my case was closed without my rape kit being tested. Right after I went to the police, the suspect had gotten a lawyer. He issued a statement through his lawyer that he had had no sexual contact with me that night. The SANE nurse told me that she had found semen in numerous places on my body. If they had tested my rape kit, the semen they found could have been matched to that of the suspect. It would have validated my claim that I was raped, and discredited his claim that he never had contact with me at all.
When I later called the prosecutor’s office to ask why my Rape Kit hadn’t been tested a representative from the Kentucky Prosecuting Attorney’s office left a voicemail on my cell phone stating they didn’t have the funds to test kits in a case like mine. It has now been three years, five months, and four days since the night I was raped and my kit remains untested.
In recent months with the help of news networks and non-profit organizations; such as CBS Evening News, RAINN, and Human Rights Watch, a spotlight has been put on the Rape Kit Backlog. The fact is many states have no idea how many untested Rape Kits they have in their possession!
Testing a Rape Kit is so important because it can identify an assailant, confirm a suspect’s contact with a victim, corroborate a victim’s account of the crime—especially useful in “acquaintance rapes”—connect apparently unrelated crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects. While reported rapes have gone down nationally, according to comprehensive academic studies the arrest rate for rape remains anemic at only 22 percent of reported cases. In 2003, 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. A law enforcement decision to test a rape kit is an indication of a commitment to build a strong investigation. National studies have shown that 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. Conversely, untested rape kits typically represent lost justice for rape victims, as it often means a rape investigation was cut short before the offender could be brought to justice.
The unfortunate truth is that our Justice System doesn’t work as smoothly as it appears to on TV shows like CSI. I used to believe in our Justice System, but after my experience I have lost faith. I can honestly say that if I were raped again I don’t know that I would chose to go to the hospital and be put through a Rape Kit again. We ask so much of victims right after they have been raped…but don’t follow through in the end.
This hearing on the rape kit backlog means so much to me for many different reasons. I believe we need continued federal leadership on the rape kit backlog, and I am so inspired that you are here to provide that leadership. I personally have made peace that my assailant will never be brought to justice; as the Prosecuting Attorney’s office has made it very clear they will not go back and test my Rape Kit. I am now turning my energy towards advocating for every rape victim whose kit remains sitting on a shelf untested!
This has been a liberating experience for me. I have been able to confront my fears about speaking out as a rape victim through the opportunities I have been given as a RAINNs Speakers Bureau Member, and have grown stronger in the process. Although I feel justice wasn’t served for me, I am comforted by the fact that I am a part of making change for the future. It is my hope that rape victims won’t have to experience the frustrations and disappointments that victims like myself and so many others have. Rape is traumatic enough; the rape kit exam and steps thereafter shouldn’t add to that trauma.
Thank You for your time to today. I am so grateful to you for listening to my story. I wanted to specially thank Congresswoman Jackson Lee for submitting a letter to Chairman Scott on my behalf requesting the hearing; and to Chairman Scott for asking me to testify.
I leave in a few hours for DC again.
This time I will be testifying in a Congressional Hearing on the Rape Kit Backlog. I am nervous but excited about the opportunity. Mariska Hargitay will be giving a testimony as well.
Tune into the CBS Evening News tonight….Katie Couric will be promoting their coverage of the hearing.
I plan to post my written testimony after the hearing.
Thanks Again for all the Support!
I will now be going to Washington DC to testify in the Congressional Hearing on May 20th….truly honored 🙂
We did it!!!
I got a call last night from Representative Jackson Lee’s office saying their will be a hearing on May 20th. I unfortunately won’t be able to attend for numerous reason. I am disappointed because this is something I am truly passionate about and I would love to see it through to the end since I have come this far, however; sometimes tough decision have to be made.
I am working with Human Rights Watch and Jackson Lee’s office to see what other options I have. For Example…writing a letter that would be shared in the hearing.
It is a GREAT feeling to see something you worked so hard on actually happen. I feel like I am really playing a part in making a difference for myself, women, and all Rape Victims!