Kansas Law Allows Anonymous Rape Kits for Those Who Don’t Immediately Report

A recent change in Kansas law allows rape victims to undergo anonymous rape kit testing that will be held by the hospital and can be used to file a police report up to five years after the rape is committed:

The victim arrives at a hospital for treatment. She is traumatized. She is stressed. The idea of meeting with police officers would be too much to go through immediately after such a violent attack.

“All sorts of things are going through their minds,” said Heather Whitton, victim and witness coordinator for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office and former director of a women’s shelter. “Fear — if it was a violent rape — to guilt — I shouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place — and shame — how could this have happened to me?”

Until this past July, hospitals in Kansas routinely contacted police in rape cases. But now they give victims the opportunity to undergo a free, anonymous rape kit test if there is a possibility the incident might be reported to law enforcement authorities within five years. The only stipulation is that the hospital must notify a parent or guardian if the victim is a minor.

Marcella elaborates that this new law is due to recent federal changes made to VAWA, but Kansas is one of the first states to update their laws and procedures accordingly.

I will say right now that I really resent the mandatory parental notification for a victim who is a minor.  As someone who was raped at 14/15 and is now 24, I didn’t “come out” to my parents as a rape survivor until just earlier this year.  At the time of the rapes, I thought that I was to blame — and also that I would be punished both for the consensual sexual contact I had engaged in and the nonconsensual contact I had endured.  I know that I’m not the only teen who felt or feels this way, and in fact many teens sadly would be punished if they told their parents.  Even worse, some minors are abused by family members, and would be punished for going to authorities with the abuse (even if those “authorities” were only hospital staff).

So I think that this stipulation is not only quite likely to prevent minors from seeking the medical care that they need, but will also prevent the possibility of them undergoing the testing and having the option to report later.

But I know that many people don’t share my radical notion that teenagers are people, with rights like the rest of us.

I also know that this law won’t be enough to educate rape victims about their rights.  As only one example, many rape victims are so wrapped up in blaming themselves that they don’t realize what was done to them actually falls under the crime of rape, and would therefore never even consider seeking out a rape kit.  There’s another category I personally belonged to, and this law wouldn’t do anything to fix it.

Further, this article reports that few victims have taken advantage of the option thus far.  It may be because they are unaware that the option exists, or because they don’t want to go through the often emotionally painful experience of rape kit collection, or for the other reasons I’ve outlined above.

The point is that this won’t be a magic bullet to ensure higher rape reporting in the state.

But it is an excellent and necessary start.  The ability, as Marcella again explains, for victims to ensure that they are physically safe before reporting, not to mention emotionally ready to handle the trauma that so regularly accompanies pressing charges, should absolutely be a right.  Victims who may immediately feel that they don’t want to report may eventually change their minds.  Victims who feel fairly certain that they do want to report may want the time to collect themselves as best they can and think it over.  Victims who live with their rapist or must interact with him regularly must ensure that they are safe before filing charges.  And I find all of those options to be an absolute necessity, both as a way to better support victims and as a way to prosecute more rapists.

While certainly no reason for the state to decide that they’ve done all they can and should to combat sexual violence . . . good work, Kansas.  And may many states continue to follow in your lead.

0 thoughts on “Kansas Law Allows Anonymous Rape Kits for Those Who Don’t Immediately Report

  1. abyss2hope

    I agree with you about the problems inherent in requiring notification of a minor’s parents since a parent or other person in the household could be the rapist and this requirement would prevent teens from getting forensic evidence collected and would likely prevent accompanying treatment.

    Reply
  2. mzbitca

    When I was teaching this semester I talked to them about always thinking about how new laws and rules will truly affect everyone and not just a “typical” person. I asked them if they thought there was anything wrong with a teenager needing a parent’s permission for an abortion. A lot of people were saying they thought it was reasonable. I followed it up with “What if they’re pregnant because their father has been raping them?” *silence*
    I finished the section with: This stuff happens and think about who the more harmful affect is on: a mother who doesn’t know or a girl that has to worry about her abuser making her life even more painful

    Reply
  3. OuyangDan

    We treat teenagers so shitty when it comes to this stuff. First, a good number of schools don’t give sex ed. worth a damn, and teens are constantly being bombarded w/ the Sex=dirty/evil/shameful message. But kids are going to have sex anyway, and they will have riskier sex b/c they don’t know enough/are too afraid to ask for help in doing it safely. They are already freaked out that their parents are going to find out and punish them. Now, something horrific happens, and while they are ashamed and already afraid someone is going to punish them for having sex in the first place, we want to tell their parents in order for them to get help. I can see a lot of teens not wanting to take that option.

    Teens are more than real people, they are future and potential adults. The problem w/ notifications, other than the obvious about possibly re-victimizing them to an abuser, is that if we are going to say we think they are smart enough to make complex decisions about sex and abortion, then we need to make sure our laws reflect that. Either we trust them or we rat them out to potentially abusive people (or possibly just parents who could make their lives harder).

    Reply
  4. hexy

    As someone who was raped at 14/15 and is now 24, I didn’t “come out” to my parents as a rape survivor until just earlier this year.

    I still haven’t. I don’t know if I ever will.

    Reply
  5. akeeyu

    You know, my whole thing on the parental notification thing, other than a whole lot of furious “You assholes!” frothing, is this:

    If the teenager in question had the sort of relationship with their parents where telling them about the rape would be beneficial (or not harmful) to the teenager, they would already have told their parents.

    I think we need to trust the judgment of the teenagers on this one. They probably know their own family dynamics.

    Since teenagers are legally allowed to have children, all of this parental notification bullshit is stupid. “We trust you to make the decision to have a baby, but not to make the decision to have an abortion/report a rape/get appropriate medical treatment and legal protection after being raped.”

    That’s dumb. Super dumb.

    Reply
  6. SunlessNick

    “We trust you to make the decision to have a baby, but not to make the decision to have an abortion/report a rape/get appropriate medical treatment and legal protection after being raped.”Dumb and repugnant, but not unique to teenagers – adult women face the same contradiction.

    I think it’s because these people don’t really regard having a baby/continuing a pregnancy as a choice, just acquiescence to the proper course. Much like how they regard women having sex or being raped. And they trust women be competent to acquiesce. But reporting a rape, accusing a rapist, ending a pregnancy – those things are choices, and so they don’t trust women with them.

    Reply
  7. SunlessNick

    Much like how they regard women having sex

    Sorry. Much like how they regard women allowing men to have sex with them – as opposed to not allowing it, or pursuing sex on their own terms.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: What she fucking said… « random babble…

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