Ending the Rape Kit Backlog: What’s the Price of a Survivor’s Peace of Mind?

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A nationwide investigation spearheaded by USA Today has found that at least 70,000 rape kits sit untested in laboratories around the country. While Detroit and other cities have made headlines for their determination to clear rape kit backlogs (in Detroit’s case, only after the Department of Justice found its police department guilty of “negative, victim-blaming beliefs” in 2008) this […]

McKinney and the History of Policing Black Women’s Bodies

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Last Friday, a white police officer in McKinney, Texas, Cpl. Eric Casebolt, responded to a call about an incident at a teenage pool party. While there, he grabbed—by the hair—bikini-clad Dajerria Becton, a 15-year old African American girl who was a guest at the party, wrestled her to the ground and held her there with […]

The Police Sex-Discrimination Case We Should Be Talking About

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In December 2013, Colorado Springs’ Chief of Police Peter Carey introduced a physical abilities test (also known as a PAT) that all officers were required to pass. It involved push-ups, sit-ups and running exercises. The stated goal of the test was to create a “culture of fitness” on the force and to reduce work-related injuries, ostensibly […]

How to Defuse Police Violence

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As the crisis continues to unfold in Baltimore and in communities across the country, it becomes increasingly clear that hiring the right types of police officers is imperative to improving police-community relations. In the Winter 2015 issue of Ms., I outlined why hiring more women officers would go a long way to reducing police violence. Below, find […]

Why Don’t We Talk About the Gender Safety Gap in the U.S.?

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This week, John Krakauer’s book, Missoula, “a depressingly typical” story about college town rapes, was released. In a recent NPR interview, Krakauer describes his dawning realization about how many women in the United States have been sexually assaulted, most often by people they know. His prior lack of awareness about women’s experiences, either of being assaulted […]

Six Months After the Killing of Michael Brown

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Michael Brown was gunned down by police in his Ferguson, Missouri, neighborhood six months ago today. Trayvon Martin, killed by a self-appointed “vigilante,” would have turned 20 years old last Thursday. Also last week: the 16th anniversary of the death of Amadou Diallo, who was shot at 41 times by NYPD when reaching for his […]

Detroit Fundraises to Test Rape Kits

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In an unprecedented initiative, the cash-strapped city of Detroit has partnered with two nonprofits to raise $10 million for testing its huge backlog of rape kits and conducting further investigations of rape cases. Five years ago, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office discovered 11,000 untested kits in a Detroit police storage unit, a few of which […]

Police Kill Black Women All The Time, Too — We Just Don’t Hear About It

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Reprinted from Bustle with permission  Protestors in New York flooded the streets last week, toting signs that blazed with images and phrases about cruel injustice. Just a week after similar events in Ferguson, a grand jury ruled that Daniel Pantaleo–the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner, a 44-year-old, black, Staten Island man, in a chokehold that led to Garner’s […]

Taming the Law Enforcement Beast: What’s Changed Since Ferguson

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Today in New York, a grand jury voted not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold (a tactic that’s banned by the NYPD). The decision comes less than two weeks after a Missouri grand jury made the same […]

California Moves to End Rape Kit Backlog

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TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT When someone is raped and wants the perpetrator caught and prosecuted, it’s essential that the victim provide forensic evidence of the assault to law enforcement. A “rape kit” is the collection of biological evidence that can lead to an identification of the perpetrator’s DNA. But tragically, rape kits are […]