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SATI e-News: October 9, 2002

  

 
In This Issue:
      
    
  Senate Approves Increased Spending on DNA Testing;
Efforts Still Inconsistent Across the Country
     
 

Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a bill authorizing $275 million in funding over the next five years to pay for DNA testing in unsolved rapes. Another $ 60 million would help states pay for tests of convicted offenders and add them to databases. Both proposals are pending before the House of Representatives.
 
Yet DNA testing “fails to live up to potential” due in part to varying levels of resources expended by states, according to an article in USA Today. According to the article, four states account for 56% of all 5,500 matches in the last ten years, while 13 states have had no matches at all.
 
Although Congress allocated about $ 45 million to help states perform DNA tests on unanalyzed evidence in 2002 and 2003, only 24 state crime labs had applied for funds to test fewer than 20,000 rape kits as of last month, according to the same article. It also questions some of the priorities of previous federal grant programs.
 
The data in the National DNA database includes far more offender profiles--1.2 million--compared to only 39,000 crime scene profiles. Increasing the rate of crime scene data entered into the database is the only way to get more hits. The Department of Justice has contracted for a new survey, to assess the extent of the backlog. The report is due October 21.
 
Officials are reported to be considering ways to include police in the grant making process, since homicide evidence in unsolved cases generally resides with law enforcement. In one proposal, local police detectives would receive $100 per unsolved homicide case processed through DNA testing.
 
Another challenge officials face is how to “close the loop” between matches made and the outcome of each case. A system is not currently in place to track individual hits through to conviction and prosecution. New York officials were able to confirm convictions in only four of its first 102 DNA matches, while 14 other cases were found to have charges pending, and the disposition of two-thirds of the hits were unobtainable, according to USA Today.
 
National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, September 26, 1999
meeting minutes.
 
“Success in crime fighting spread unevenly,” USA Today, October 7, 2002.

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  Mishandling of Campus Rapes Becomes Issue in Congressional Race
     
  In a campaign ad broadcast on New York radio stations, Rep. Felix Grucci (R-NY) has accused his challenger of turning his back on rape victims as an administrator at Southampton College, according to Newsday.
 
In the ad, a female narrator says: "Rape, a woman's worst nightmare. But when rapes increased at Southampton College, the college administration under provost Tim Bishop discouraged some attacks from being reported, and the college's own newspaper reported that Tim Bishop's team falsified rape statistics in the student handbook. . . after sexual assaults on campus continued, Tim Bishop was asked by students to promote better school security. He said to students, quote, 'I can't tell you that you're safe here. I can't tell your parents that you're safe here.' Tim Bishop now thinks his inaction to protect innocent students qualifies him to be Long Island's next congressman," the narrator concludes.
 
According to Newsday, the ads are based on rape reports dating to 1990 and 1994, which were covered in Southampton's student newspaper, the Windmill. The Grucci campaign is standing behind the ads. Although they were withdrawn for a short time last week due to a temporary restraining order obtained by Long Island University, which runs Southampton, an appellate court lifted the stay. The campaign deleted mention of the university in re-broadcasting the ads.
 
Democratic challenger, Timothy Bishop, has been on leave from his position as provost at Southampton since April 1 in order to run for Congress. According to Newsday, Bishop denies the validity of the charges made in the ad, saying that the ad twisted the meaning by excerpting from his statement to students.
 
A claim by Grucci prompts bitter dispute in campaign," Newsday,
October 1, 2002.

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  Upward Trend in Rape Reporting Rates for Two Straight Years
      
  The latest National Crime Victimization Survey, released last month by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows promising--though not conclusive developments in the reporting rate of rape and sexual assaults.
 
While the reporting rate for rapes/sexual assaults fluctuated between 28% and 32% between 1993 and 1999, last year’s figures showed that 48% of rape/sexual assault victims reported the crime to police. The BJS cautioned that last year’s figure (based on year 2000 surveys) could have been a fluke, as it was based on a small number of cases, and that trend data—data gathered over time—is a more important indicator. This year’s rate (based on year 2001 surveys) was 39%. While it is 10% lower than last year's rate, it is still far higher than any of the reporting rates between 1992 and 1994.
 
Although the data is not conclusive, it does suggest that the data may finally be on an upward trend, reflecting positive developments in the criminal justice systems that are impacting rape victims' willingness to come forward.
 
Meanwhile, the NCVS also showed a drop of 8.3% in the overall incidence of rapes/sexual assault. The entire category of violent crime, of which sexual assault is a part, dropped by 10%. Based on the NCVS data, the BJS estimates that 248,000 rapes and sexual assaults were committed in 2001. This figure includes both reported and unreported crimes of individuals 12 and over. The 2001 NCVS can be found at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cv01.htm
 
Also of note is that the BJS recently reinstated a study of crime by household, entitled Crime and the Nation's Households, 2000. The report shows that rape and sexual assault were each experienced by less than 1% of members of households during 1994-2000. Intimate partner violence was slightly higher; about 1 in every 200 households acknowledged that some in the household experienced intimate partner violence, which in some cases includes sexual assault. The full report can be found at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cnh00.htm

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  High Profile Cases Highlight Rape of Elderly Women
     
  Los Angeles police arrested and charged 41 year-old Gary David Johnson
for recent attacks on seven women between the ages of 65 and 87, two of
which resulted in sexual assault. Johnson has a criminal record in
California, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.
 
Separately, San Jose law enforcement officials, investigating rapes of three elderly women in recent months, learned through DNA testing that three different perpetrators are involved. The victims were 55, 71 and 94 years of age. In a fourth case, police arrested a 19-year old man for the rape at knifepoint, of a 70 year-old San Jose woman last June.
 
While crime statistics make it appear practically non-existent, rape of the elderly can and does occur. When it does, it frequently turns deadly. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report “Sex Offense and Offenders,” 1 in 7 sexual assault murder victims were 60 or older. 2.6% of rape victims over the age of 60 were killed during the rape. Only one age group of rape victims—ages 13 through 17—had a higher murder rate, at 3.3%.
 
Special Agent Mark E. Safarik, a profiler in the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI Academy, has researched and written extensively about the topic of sexual homicides of elderly women. The study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, involved a review of 110 offenders who perpetrated the rape and murder of 128 women 60 years and older. The mean age of the victims was 77.
 
“People find it difficult to imagine why a rapist would target an elderly victim, because society still equates sexual arousal and desire with rape,” Safarik said in a phone interview. “You’re dealing with issues of power and anger in these cases, and for a number of these offenders the victim is largely symbolic,” he added. Safarik speculated that the anger level, particularly with those who target elderly women, could be one explanation for the high murder rate of victims.
 
Safarik found that rapists who target and murder elderly women varied greatly by age and race, but were homogenous in many other characteristics and methods of operation.
 
The study found that these individuals are typically undereducated, unemployed and substance abusers--usually alcohol. They are socially incompetent, do not fit into their peer group, and sexually inadequate with only 48% of the offenders leaving semen at the crime scene.
 
The vast majority (92%) have some sort of criminal history, but mostly misdemeanor incidents. “In approximately 80% of the cases, you will not find them in your sex offender database,” said Safarik.
 
They are not criminally sophisticated criminals, and frequently leave evidence at the crime scene. Another commonality is their proximity to the victim. 56% of the assailants live within six blocks of their victim, and 30% of those on the very same street. “Focus the initial investigation on the neighborhood,” Safarik suggests.
 
“Contrary to what some might think, their primary goal is the sexual assault,” says Safarik. Although they will usually make off with cash or jewelry afterwards, burglary is not the primary motivation—it is an afterthought.
 
The victim’s race is a good predictor for the race of the rapist only if the elderly victim is a black or Hispanic woman. Black men are the likely assailants if the sexual homicide victim is an elderly black woman. Likewise, Hispanic men are the likely attacker if the elderly victim is an elderly Hispanic women. White women not only make up 84 % of the victims in the study, but are the targets of rapists of all races. However, white men are unlikely candidates if the elderly victim is black or Hispanic, as they focus almost exclusively on elderly white women.
 
“The best predictor for age of the perpetrator is the level of injury,” according to Safarik. The more violent the injuries the sexual homicide victim suffers, the higher the likelihood that the offender is younger than the mean offender age of 27 years.
 
So, why does rape of elderly women not show up in statistics? The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the most comprehensive and longitudinal measure of crime and victim characteristics, is based on a phone survey of 100,000 households. The sub-sample victim populations are small. Segments within the victim population are even smaller, and so may not be representative of the population. In addition, the NCVS does not account for victims who do not survive, which is where elderly women are most likely to show up. The other major government crime assessment tool, Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), captures data on crimes that are reported to law enforcement. Demographics are only captured on offenders and homicide victims.
 
“Rapist targeting elderly women strikes again,” Los Angeles Police
Department press release
, August 14, 2002.
 
“Unlikely sleuths help catch rape suspects, Los Angeles Times, August
17, 2002.
 
“No link in rapes of three women,” San Jose Mercury News, September 10,
2002.
 
“DNA evidence links East Bay man to rape of San Jose woman,” San Jose
Mercury News
, July 24, 2002.
 
“Rapist left clues in struggle with Palo Alto victim,” San Jose Mercury
News
, May 14, 2002.
 
“Sex Offenses and Offenders,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997.
 
“Sexual Homicide of Elderly Females: Linking Offender Characteristics
to Victim and Crime Scene Attributes," authors Mark E. Safarik, John P.
Jarvis, Kathleen E. Nussbaum, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Sage Publications, May 2002, pp. 500-525.

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  DEA Closes Down GHB Online Dealers
     
  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 115 individuals in 84 cities last month for selling GHB and its derivatives over the Internet. The arrests followed a two-year multi-jurisdictional investigation requiring the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies within the U.S. and Canada, according to the DEA.
 
Classified as a Schedule I drug in March 2000, GHB is best known as a
“rape drug” which perpetrators sometimes use to incapacitate their victims. But GHB is also widely used recreationally and for purported benefits as a sleep aid, workout aid, anti-depressant, anti-aging substance, and sexual enhancer. What's more, research has confirmed that addiction is increasingly associated with GHB use, and that unsupervised withdrawal is highly dangerous and life-threatening.
 
Because GHB leaves the system quickly and no adequate field test exists
to test for the presence of GHB and its analogs, an unknown number of
sexual assault, drunk driving, death and even possession cases are never investigated. This makes it all the more important to cut off the drug at the dealer level.
 
While the DEA action might present a challenge for rapists, those who take the drug recreationally—and are convinced that GHB is an innocuous substance—are at significant risk, as they may have unknowingly become
addicted to the drug. These individuals may not be prepared for the physical symptoms brought on by sudden withdrawal from GHB. Project GHB, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of GHB and its analogues, warned that “cold turkey” withdrawal from GHB is highly dangerous and considered life endangering. For more information about GHB addiction research, intervention or medically supervised withdrawal, see www.projectghb.org or write to trinka@projectghb.org.
 
Sources:
 

DEA: www.dea.gov/pubs/pressrel/pr091802p.html
 
“Adverse Events, Including Death, Associated with the Use of 1,4
Butanediol,” Vol. 344 No. 2, January 11, 2001, New England Journal of
Medicine.

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