4It has been acknowledged that our country has a rape kit crisis. Less than 25% of acute care hospitals in the United States have a certified sexual assault evidence collection staff member. But one of the largest hurdles for victims in receiving justice is the overwhelming backlog of collected rape kits that remained unprocessed due to staffing and funding deficits. After a grassroots initiated push to change all this, some positive results are making headlines.
More than two dozen states took up the Department of Justice’s grant earmarked to help clear the mounting number of unprocessed sexual assault evidence collection kits. In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Vance announced yesterday over 1,000 arrests in the past three years as a result of this effort and completed testing of over 100,000 kits. In Cuyahoga County Ohio, over 7000 kits were tested resulting in 800 indictments. Other counties are reporting similar progress in testing kits that have been sitting unprocessed for many years.
While this is progress, advocates point out that there is still a long way to go. Many of the kits had been in storage for so long that either the DNA is corrupted, the kits are lost or destroyed, or the perpetrator is identified but the statute of limitations has expired. This issue highlights gender inequality in the handling of crimes. Advocates state that those assaulted are further victimized by having to be the ones who fight for their own evidence to be processed. We still have a long way to go, but recent efforts should give us hope.
There has been so much buzz around the Green New Deal initiative presented by Democratic Representative Ocazio-Cortez recently. This initiative was proposed to simultaneously tackle climate change and economic inequality.. It’s goals are lofty, and ones that most Americans would love to see happen, but more of a pipe dream than a realistic endeavor right now.
The plan calls for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles to be at zero within ten years. It calls for the end of using fossil fuels across the board, including manufacturing and transportation, and a transition to alternative energy and fuel. Also included is a massive goal of repairing and improving our infrastructure and net zero energy building, which includes upgrading all existing structures. On the economic side, not only does it call for guaranteed living wage employment for everyone, but also reparations and protections for those who have been disadvantaged by industry in the past. Basic utility prices are mandated to be affordable and available to all. Sounds wonderful! But is it realistic or just utopian musings?
With the caveat that the best indicator for future behavior is recent past behavior, critics of this plan are right to be skeptical. Historically, our country has an abysmal track record of bringing bright shiny ideas like this into concrete reality. Just look at the Obama stimulus package. Or the new rail project in California that just got permanently cancelled. Great ideas that offer both economic equality and protection against climate change have broad support in their proposal but almost utter failure in their implementation. The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that the powerful corporations and elite of this world have a big stake in maintaining their wealth and influence and as a whole do not act in ways that would foster equality and access for all. Until this changes, all these ideas are just a dream. One only needs to realize that with all the amazing technological advances we have seen this century alone, we still drive vehicles that are operating with 100 year old technology while patents that would revolutionize this remain suppressed for national security reasons.
I’m not saying we should stop dreaming and wishing for a healthier, cleaner, more just and equal society. I’m saying that in order for this type of change to happen, we all need to clear away the distracting chatter and get serious about how we can address the fundamental blocks to achieving this goal. Until we get real about that…. this is all a beautiful fantasy.