Paper Title

Intersecting Discourses: Complicating the Production of Rape Kit Evidence

Panel

Sexual Assault and Sexual Violence in Cultural and College Perspectives

Location

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

31-3-2016 3:30 PM

End Date

31-3-2016 4:45 PM

Keywords

sexual violence, rape kit, feminist materialism, rape narratives, intersectionality

Abstract

The role of forensics in prosecuting sexual violence has accelerated since the introduction of the rape kit, transforming how rape cases are handled in medico-legal contexts. Reshaping what is considered a viable legal case, increasingly, victims must have a ‘good’ rape kit to achieve prosecution. Although evidence, and especially DNA evidence, created with forensics is held as the gold standard, rape kits have created a crisis for the criminal justice system, as evidenced by the immense rape kit backlog, and the cost of processing them. Much scholarship has focused on those who collect rape kits, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), rather than the rape kits as a technological artifact. I conduct a socio-historic archaeology of the rape kit uncovering its histories at the intersections of science, law, and culture. First, I trace its origins as a technological intervention by feminist activists and uncover its developers’ original aims. I then assess whether the rape kit has been successful in these aims by analyzing longitudinal arrest and victimization data--with a focus on race. Lastly, employing both STS and Feminist conceptions of materialization, I suggest normative cultural views of sexual violence interact with discourses of science technology to complicate the perceived objectivity of the rape kit, and its capability to achieve social justice. This analysis offers productive insights for transforming State policy, and bridging divergent views of sexual violence justice.

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Mar 31st, 3:30 PM Mar 31st, 4:45 PM

Intersecting Discourses: Complicating the Production of Rape Kit Evidence

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

The role of forensics in prosecuting sexual violence has accelerated since the introduction of the rape kit, transforming how rape cases are handled in medico-legal contexts. Reshaping what is considered a viable legal case, increasingly, victims must have a ‘good’ rape kit to achieve prosecution. Although evidence, and especially DNA evidence, created with forensics is held as the gold standard, rape kits have created a crisis for the criminal justice system, as evidenced by the immense rape kit backlog, and the cost of processing them. Much scholarship has focused on those who collect rape kits, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), rather than the rape kits as a technological artifact. I conduct a socio-historic archaeology of the rape kit uncovering its histories at the intersections of science, law, and culture. First, I trace its origins as a technological intervention by feminist activists and uncover its developers’ original aims. I then assess whether the rape kit has been successful in these aims by analyzing longitudinal arrest and victimization data--with a focus on race. Lastly, employing both STS and Feminist conceptions of materialization, I suggest normative cultural views of sexual violence interact with discourses of science technology to complicate the perceived objectivity of the rape kit, and its capability to achieve social justice. This analysis offers productive insights for transforming State policy, and bridging divergent views of sexual violence justice.