There are a lot of assumptions to be made about how our legal system treats rape victims, but one that I never thought to make was that, once collected, a woman’s rape kit could wind up in the trash. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening and Samantha Bee just blew the lid on it.
Samantha Bee’s late-night show may be a fun place to go for biting political satire, but it’s also the only late-night show with a woman at the helm and, fortunately for us, Bee doesn’t shy away from her role as a feminist voice.
— Wendy Chill (@WendyAChill) March 22, 2016
This is never more true than when she tackles women’s issues, and tonight was another perfect example of Bee taking a subject to the mat with some genuine feminist rage.
The segment starts out with some disturbing facts: 2,234 untested rape kits in Oregon, over 2,000 untested in Virginia and over 20,000 untested rape kits in Texas are at risk of being destroyed, leaving thousands of cases unsolved and their perpetrators on the streets.
— Danielle Miraglia (@dmiraglia) March 22, 2016
The scariest part? It’s perfectly legal in every U.S. state to incinerate a rape kit before the statute of limitations expires. Are you angry yet? You should be. The decision to destroy these untested kits is in the hands of the police collecting the evidence, and they may decide to destroy them for something as ridiculous as needing to make space in the evidence room.
As Bee points out, legislation preventing this practice from continuing was recently passed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t idiots in your state legislature or county offices actively fighting against such mandates.
In Georgia, Senator Renee Unterman killed a bill requiring rape kit testing. Her reasoning was that there wasn’t a problem to begin with because “if there were a problem, I would be Johnny on the Spot with it.” Bee pulled out the feminist rule book on her, saying the two rules for women are “no rape jokes and don’t be mean to other women,” both of which Unterman is breaking.
Then there’s the sheriff in Bingham County, Idaho, who doesn’t want legislative mandates telling police whether or not they have to send in a kit. In his opinion, the “majority” of rapes called in are really just instances of consensual sex misreported by a teenager who doesn’t want to tell her parents she had sex.
— Cliff Haynes (@DrCliffH) March 22, 2016
One of the biggest reasons not to destroy these kits is, as Bee points out, that when you test those rape kits, you catch serial rapists.
So, now that your blood is boiling — it is, isn’t it? — why not do something about it? That’s the driving point of Bee’s segment… these laws are being passed (or impeded) by elected officials. There may be a lot of problems in this world that feel insurmountable, but when it comes down to legislation, you do have a voice. Local and state politics may not be as sexy or exciting as presidential ones, but if we’ve learned anything from Obama’s time in office, it’s that the real power to instigate or impede change lies with our legislative body.
Or, as Bee said: “Nobody is running against either of these ding-dongs in November because we don’t care about local politics. So remember: Local elections are a lot like rape kits — no one really wants to pay attention to them, but if you bother to open them up, you might just get rid of someone who’s been screwing everyone in town.”
UPDATE: After this segment had aired, legislators were able to pass the bill requiring law officials to find, count, and test all untested rape kits!
Full Frontal showrunner, Jo Miller told New York Magazine that, “At the 11th hour, after our piece ran, it got a lot of attention, and they managed to get it passed by attaching it to another bill — a legislator sacrificed her part of a bill that had to do with background checks for guns, and they put in the rape kit in a way that it wouldn’t go through committee, so [it] would just get an up or down vote without going up in this committee,” she explained. “So it got passed at like, 1 till midnight, and the supporters were tweeting at us and letting us know.”
Now that’s what I call an awesome late-night show!
— Cliff Haynes (@DrCliffH) March 22, 2016