An Idaho county sheriff in charge of deciding whether or not to test rape kits angered the public after he suggested that most victims’ rape kits don’t need to be tested because they were never actually assaulted.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland was responding to proposed bill HB 528 from Rep. Melissa Wintrow, which would require the use and testing of rape kits in every sexual assault case covered by the police, The Huffington Post reports. Standard rape kits store DNA samples from the victim that may include the suspect’s semen, blood, or saliva. These tests are then taken to labs where experts cross-examine the evidence to identify the assailant.
But during an interview with KDIK Tuesday, Rowland said the decision to send these kits to labs should be up to the police, because most rapes in Bingham County are “actually consensual sex.”
“They need to let us decide if we’re going to send the kit and when we send the kits in,” he said to local TV station KDIK on Tuesday. “Because the majority of our rapes, not to say that we don’t have rapes, we do, but the majority of our rapes that are called in, are actually consensual sex.”
Rowland then described a troublesome scenario that included a teenage girl who had consensual sex with her boyfriend and then claimed she was raped so as not to disappoint her parents.
His comments echo an unfortunate overwhelming view regarding rape. According to RAINN, 68 percent of rapes are never reported to the police and 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Black women and mixed race women are the most targeted, while 2.7 million men have been the victims of sexual assault or rape.
After Rowland’s comments were heavily criticized, he took to Facebook to apologize, but quickly deleted the post.
He wrote, via The Slot:
I want to clarify what I was trying to say when I did the press story yesterday. I in no way was saying that we do not have rapes that occur in our County. I was trying to say that when a call is called into dispatch it is initially put in as a rape. Officers and investigators are sent to investigate all of the sexual assaults in Bingham County and after the investigation is complete some of these cases are found out to be consensual sex and not a rape. These kits are not sent to the State lab for processing. I apologize if I have offended anyone as that was not my intention.
Despite Rowland’s comments, the Idaho state legislature unanimously approved the bill. It will now go to the Senate.