War on Drugs 1, War on Rape 0

I was called to jury duty last week at federal court in Los Angeles. Thirty-five prospective jurors were asked if they could fairly judge a man accused of selling a “small amount of a controlled substance”–crack cocaine–to an undercover cop. (In total, six undercover cops worked to bring this guy down!) When asked in voir dire if I objected to the charges, I said,

I think it’s a waste of money for a jury, a DA, a judge and all these cops to spend days on this minuscule salvo in the War on Drugs, when L.A. does not prosecute rapists in any meaningful way. Isn’t the War on Rape as important as the War on Drugs?

I was thrown out of the jury pool.

President Obama’s drug czar, the conservative National Review and scores of police officers have declared the War on Drugs a total failure. The War on Rape does not even exist. I Googled both, and found countless War on Drug references, but I found nothing about the War on Rape. Rape during war, yes. But not a word about a war on the one-in-six-women-will-be-raped-in-the-U.S. kind of rape.

I have written short films about the lack of rape-kit testing in L.A. I have cried, screamed and overeaten because the truth is unbearable: Of the rapes that are reported to police, only 6 percent will result in a rapist spending a single day in jail.

I called Patricia Doyle, a prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Sex Crimes unit, to find out what the problem was. She says they are numerous. Even though the LAPD says it has eliminated its backlog of hundreds of untested rape kits (unlike most U.S. cities), Doyle explains that DNA from these rape kits is no guarantee of a conviction. The perpetrator’s DNA may not be in the data bank, in which case they can’t find him. And the DNA only proves that he had sex with the woman, but does not prove it was non-consensual. Worse still, in a campus rape, or acquaintance rape, (this is the prosecutor’s position, not mine), the issue of whether the woman was drinking or seductively dressed really is a focal point for the defense of the rapist. Doyle agreed with me when I said, “If a woman goes to the police in a short skirt, having had a few drinks, and claims her Mercedes was stolen, nobody questions her outfit or alcohol intake. But tell the police you were raped and you stand trial along with your rapist.”

This makes rape trials hard to win. Prosecutors need to win.

Discouraged by this information, I spoke with Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Art Goldberg. He agreed with the prosecutor’s assessment but offered a solution: Law enforcement and prosecutors need to re-order their priorities so they spend more time and money finding the evidence to convict rapists, and stop wasting tax payer money on non-violent crimes.

Isn’t a woman’s body and sense of safety more valuable than a Mercedes? Or even a Rolex?

The LAPD is bullish on catching drug dealers, they must develop the same zeal for stopping those who commit violent sexual acts against women, children and men.

I want to be a soldier in the War on Rape. I want to take rapists out of circulation. I want them never to rape again. That’s a jury I would like to be on.

To learn how to take action to help end the rape kit backlog, visit the Feminist Majority’s No More Excuses Campaign homepage.

Photo from Flickr user Jo Simon through Creative Commons.


  1. Their excuse is the budget. Not well trained police officers. Drugs on war is where the money is, easier to catch. Men run most of the police stations. My opinion is a lot of them think women cry rape, because they are mad at the guy or something. It’s not a woman’s world. Not to stereotype men, I’m sure a lot of them are passionate about it and had family members raped. It’s all in the budget I guess or I’m being cynical thinking they just don’t care.

  2. Courtney says:

    Thanks for being a voice for all the many women who have not been given justice. The justice system needs to change in the war on rape. What an amazing article!

  3. Debra B says:

    Thank you for such an important blog and for speaking out at jury duty. Shifting priorities is critical. I hope you send your blog to your contacts at LAPD and the District Attorney.

  4. Another Angelena says:

    I was a victim of sexual assault by an acquaintance in LA last year. Although I was treated with dignity and respect by the Sex Crimes Unit, they kept reminding me how hard it was to prosecute these cases and that ultimately the DA was only going to be interested if it seemed like a “winnable” case. Sure, they had his DNA from my bra and sweater, but it only proved he got semen on me. They wanted me — after I had gone through the nerve-wracking process of getting a restraining order and sitting in a civil courtroom with my assailant for that — to call him up (with the phone tapped) and tell him I wanted to see him again, and to get him to admit it was non-consensual, that he had gotten “carried away.” I couldn’t go through the mental torture of speaking to him again, and because I couldn’t get a confession on tape I walked away from pressing charges. It would have taken that level of proof to bring the case to trial and I was not mentally ready then to follow through.

    • I’m sorry for what you went through. If we all get vocal enough, hopefully we can save other women, kids and men from being assaulted, and not getting justice.

      I really appreciate that you shared this. Susan

    • I’m sorry for what you went through. If we all get vocal enough, hopefully we can save other women, kids and men from being assaulted, and not getting justice.

      I really appreciate that you shared this. Susan

  5. It is a real shame that we continue to stuff our prisons with the victims of the war on drugs which is really just a war on colored Americans by the government to perpetuate the prison industrial complex. And the fact that these victimless “crimes” take precedence over real crimes like rape is a tragedy of our modern society.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

  6. Carlos DeLeon says:

    Thanks to Ms. and the author of this funny and articulate blog for exposing the skewed priorities of our culture AND our justice system.

  7. There is no money to take or cars to impound in rape cases. I use to live in California now i’m in Texas where women can carry guys and legally shoot someone attempting to do bodly injury to her. California protect and serve is nill. I once had a cop come to my door and said you called 911. I said no. He said well my report says you did. I asked him what phone number and he told me. It was the number hooked up to nothing but my computer. I had been having an issue with the phone lines not working, interferance and static. I said my phone lines have been getting crossed. I have even unhooked the computer from that number. You better find out who’s number mine is getting crossed with. I asked him the date and he told me it had been over a week. I told him the lady who tried to call was probably dead by now. He laughed. I said goodbye closed the door only to stop and think. Durring that past week I saw at least 10 officers sitting by the side of the road at luch stops or writing tickets. More money in tickets than saving lives. I had seem in the past few years more cops in our neighborhood than most of the rest of the time I had been alive. The solution to the problem…hire more cops. The end result, poor people who couldn’t afford the lens for the rear light now have a ticket they can’t pay that has doubled and trippled and is like a horrir story that never ends. By the time they got their stimulis money all of it and them some was owed to the state for fees, fines and penalities. California is a place no one can afford to live not because the food is more expensive or the utilities but once you loose your step in life for just a minute there it’s a lifetime of trying to recover. The state represses you. I know several young couples trying to start out that are cought in the cycle. Red light cameras, extra traffic officers who only write tickets it’s only about collecting the money to hire more to police our nation. BTE if you owe a ticket and DMV tells you to pay them or you can’t get your registeration don’t do it cause I did it for my son and they didn’t report it to the courts…now he has a warrent for his arrest and has to prove it’s been paid…not to mention fines penalities and fees. One more thing. the old Gemco boarded up store in Riverside. Before they tore it down my hubby and I drove behind it to see 3 police cars one officer sleeping and the other 2 sitting with their windows by each other talking. That’s what Riverside, CA pays for. When they’re not ripping you off they are wasting tax payer money. I’m only bold enough to speak up now cause I no longer live in teh state. How do we fix it? The police dept has to live by the budget given as they expect us to do. If they impound money or property it should go to EDU, Drug diversion, Victims therapy etc

  8. USMC Limey says:

    While I appreciate the authors passion for the prosecution of Rapists (who truly are the scum of the earth). I take issue with her attitude towards civic duty and the significance of Drug Crimes.

    1. You were called to Jury Duty, you don’t get to pick what kind of trial you are going to sit on, apart from all else by speaking up you proved that you would be incapable of being impartial at a rape trial also. It was a yes or no question, nobody has time for your political grandstanding, if you want to make a difference then run for office.

    2. Drug crimes are not victimless crimes. People die from drug overdoses. People are robbed, sometimes murdered for drugs (or money to buy them).

    3. Sorry, rape is a hard crime to prove beyond reasonable doubt. That’s a fact, live with it. Don’t get drunk and get left alone with any man other than your daddy or your brother – it tends to ruin your credibility and create reasonable doubt.

    4. Nothing says “NO” like three well placed shots in the chest. Get a gun, learn how to use it, and go nowhere without it.

    I’m saying this as the father of two young girls (soon to be three), and a friend of many rape victims. You may not like my opinion but that doesn’t give you the right to sink to the level of name calling and stereotyping.

    • NO. Stop blaming women for rape. Blame the men who rape them. Instead of telling women what to do, you should be telling all of your male friends to never be alone with a woman who isn’t their mother or sister, especially if he’s had a drink.

      Men Can Stop Rape is a great organization – check them out to learn some truly effective ways that men can help. (Hint: victim blaming ain’t one of them.)

      • USMC Limey says:

        You know, your right. Let’s extend that logic further. I should walk around whatever area of town I feel like flashing my iPhone and expensive clothes. Because when I get mugged it is 100% the muggers fault.

        You can’t expect everyone to be good. The vast majority of men aren’t rapists, and most of us would love nothing more than to get our hands on one of these scum and make them pay, but you simply cannot go through life expecting that people are going to respect your rights and dignity. You have to take some responsibility for your own safety, which means waking up from Lala land and having a little situational awareness.

        Nobody blames women for rape, but it’s easy to see where mistakes are made (usually out of naivety) when you hear about the girl who got invited for a dip in her boss’s hot tub, or back to the frat house for a couple more shots. What do they really think the guy is planning ?

        Is it too much to ask that women at least have a healthy sense of skepticism ?

  9. Well said! Could we focus on violent crime for a change?

  10. Thank you Susan for continuing to be the kind of journalist that we need. Your dedication to the truth about the welfare of women is an inspiration. I wish that we could call this “war” something else, so that we don’t have to chase a violence act with a violence movement, but things are so out of balance that we must take a very aggressive stand. Thank you again, dear Susan.

    • USMC Limey says:

      I’d hardly call this blog Journalism. There’s no fact in it other than the report of an inappropriate outburst in a federal court. Which makes me wonder why she expects a Federal Court to try rape cases ? Unless it occurs interstate then it’s clearly a municipal or state crime.

      The single statistic quoted “every-day-one-in-six-women-will-be-raped-in-the-U.S.” is completely misquoted. If it were true as written then every woman I know has been raped 3-5 times in the last month.

      I completely sympathize with the argument that not enough is done about rape (although I still contend that three rounds from a .38 snub nose are far more likely to effect justice than any court in the land).

      • msmagblog says:

        Thanks for catching that error, which was inserted in copyediting (oh the difference hyphenation makes!) We\’ve removed \”every-day-\” to correct.

  11. lauriecolson says:

    A war on rape might have the same effect as war on drugs. Counterintuitive.


    one should also avoid being a trusting child, a hotel maid, a prisoner, low ranking servicemember, etc. etc. Cover your ass!

  12. You should have kept your mouth shut and hung that jury. Juror nullification is one way to fight back in the War on Drugs aka War on the Poor.

    • I agree Rosa, this organization has a lot of info about doing that kind of thing. If more of us spoke out in this way, we could grind this insane drug “war” to a halt.


      • USMC Limey says:

        Maybe if somebody was selling drugs to your daughter in return for sex, or she was sleeping with a dirty old man to pay for her drug habit you’d feel differently. I know people who have been in this situation. Where they had to basically pay for their 16 year old daughters drug habit to keep her from sleeping with some pervert. Yes there are rehab programs, but they have poor success rates and the ones that this young lady went to just taught her more about which drugs had the best effects and different ways to get them.

        Can you imagine paying for CRYSTAL METH for your teenage daughter. Or spending tens of thousands of dollars on rehab programs that don’t work or make the problem worse. Knowing full well that if you don’t give her the money she’s going to sexually degrade herself to get the money elsewhere and still get the drugs ?

        I’d hardly call drug crimes “victimless”.

  13. USMC Limey says:

    How is the drug war a war on the poor ?

    A war on folks with POOR JUDGEMENT maybe.

    Your right, my remedy to remove reasonable doubt doesn’t work for children/maids/prisoners/low ranking servicemembers etc… However as a child cannot legally consent to sexual activiy then any trace of semen or evidence of sexual contact with a minor constitutes rape. Maids at most hotels are discouraged from cleaning occupied rooms for exactley that reason. Evidence of sexual conduct in a prison falls under the same approach as children, the aren’t supposed to be having sex so if a prisoner claims rape and there’s physical evidence it’s a slam dunk. Being a low ranking service member means that any sexual contact between yourself and anyone in your chain of command would be considered fraternization and sexual misconduct on the part of the senior servicemember, the Military is extremely vigilant of this (hence the annual training I was forced to attend during my enlistment), these cases do get charged and prosecuted under the UCMJ which is far tougher than the civillian justice system.

  14. survivor says:

    Thank you for speaking out about rape. I’ve been speaking out a lot lately about a rape that happened to me a long time ago. The records are public and while I didn’t name any names on my blog, I did talk about it in detail. After it became public knowledge I was called a bad influence and fired from my job. I don’t regret speaking out at all and I will continue to do so, but it makes me feel a hell of a lot better seeing that I’m not the only one who refuses to be silent.

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