Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Serious crimes deserve serious time

Rape has always been a controversial and sensitive topic, but lately rape has been in the public eye for both the right and wrong reasons.

The wrong reasons were sparked by insensitive and downright silly remarks by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin and Indiana Rep. Richard Mourdock. Akin claimed during his Senate campaign in Missouri that in cases of “legitimate rape,” women “shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. A few days ago, Mourdock said that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something God intended to happen.”

The outrage and debate these comments have sparked shows that rape is being taken more seriously by the American people.

Nevertheless, the rape “scandals” that have been circulating the media these past few weeks shows that many still do not take rape crimes seriously enough.

Almost two weeks ago, former Amherst student Angie Epifano wrote a piece for The Amherst Student recounting her experience with rape at Amherst University. According to Epifano, the campus’ sexual assault coordinator denied her request to switch dorms, told her pressing charges would be useless because her rapist was about to graduate and suggested she “forgive and forget” after she “made sure” it was rape and not a bad hookup.

The underlying issue here is not an overall ignorance toward rape but an overall indifference to rape crimes. It’s easy to call out a senator who says something ridiculous, but when a college student seeks help after being raped, he/she is treated like a liar and not taken seriously.

News has also surfaced about how rape kits are routinely left untouched in America. A rape kit is the evidence taken at a hospital after one is raped. These kits often sit untested in police storage rooms for years, especially if the rape does not seem believable.

In Illinois, roughly 80 percent of rape kits remain untested, according to figures from Human Rights Watch. Many times, women or their health insurance companies have to pay for these rape tests that get backlogged and ignored.

Some argue that there is a thin line when regarding rape, specifically date rape due to different interpretations of what consent is, and if consent is valid or even possible when someone is drunk. While I agree that regretting a consensual hookup or one night stand is not rape, treating anyone who comes to you for help as a liar is wrong. To know that colleges across the U.S. tell young women not to press charges and often suggest they take a leave is disgusting.

The fact that rape kits do not get tested, and that many hospitals deny rape kits to girls who were drunk when raped, is even more disgusting, if not scary. This means that serial rapists are often not identified and thus not convicted. They are free to roam the streets and know that they can get away with rape.

These policies are outrageous, and if we are going to pound on politicians who claim that legitimate rape cannot lead to pregnancy, then we should also pound down on society’s cavalier attitude toward rape crimes and fight for better policies, and in the long term, real public safety.

Julia Greenwald is a sophomore in the School of Communication.

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