Our Own Words

 

hawaii

As survivors of sexual assault and the backlog of untested rape kits, our hearts go out to the men and women in Hawai’i whose kits remain untested. Our experiences allow us to empathize with others who have endured similar tragedies.

We celebrate the efforts of Representatives Ichiyama, Belatti, Evans, Fukumoto, Chang, C. Lee, Lopresti, Luke, Mizuno, Morikawa, Thielen, DeCoite, Matsumoto and San Buenaventura and Senators Thielen, Baker, Espero, Green, Inouye, Shimabukuro, Ihara, Kidani, Riviere and Tokuda for sponsoring legislation and we offer our support in their efforts of passing HB 1907 and its companion bill, SB 2309 into law in Hawaiʻi.

Bellow are our words and thoughts. We hope we can help Hawai’i serve its people and eliminate this public safety issue. – Natasha Alexenko, Founder – Natasha’s Justice Project

I was very disappointed to learn that Hawai’i is not testing rape kits because they believe it might be too traumatizing for survivors.  Let’s be clear about this.  Law enforcement agencies that initially ignored rape kit testing and did not investigate these felonies in a timely manner now want to make the call that their neglect should stand because it might be upsetting for survivors.  This is simply paternalistic nonsense.  We are victims of major felony crimes; our crimes were ignored by those sworn to protect us and uphold the law.  And now we are being told survivors are too fragile to get information that we deserved decades ago.  Hawai’i, do you job.  There are guidelines and best practices available to you and survivors who would gladly speak with you about effective notification.  Don’t add to our victimization by deciding for us what we can and cannot handle.  We can handle plenty. – Michelle Bowdler

Each and every one of the kits currently being help by law enforcement represents  a horrific crime committed against a separate  individual, thousands of them.  Having a forensic exam done in the aftermath of a serious assault is not for the weak of heart.  It is a grueling, invasive procedure not soon forgotten.  The women and men who submit to having rape kits done, do it with the hope that someday that invasive experience will help them get justice.  To withhold that justice because one feels that a survivor would be better off without being re-traumatized doesn’t understand now strong that survivor already is.  Having been violated by someone and then ignored by the system that is supposed to help you is the ultimate insult. Testing the kits, getting rapists off the street and showing survivors that they matter doesn’t cause more pain…it helps finally take away some of sting that’s been there all along. – Julie Weil

Who waits 29 years for the phone call that an arrest was finally made in the brutal rape and murder of their daughter? I do! My daughter was murdered on December 6, 1984. On May 13, 2013, thanks to a DNA match, an arrest was made. No amount of time can erase the longing to know who done it. – Yvonne Pointer

As a survivor of an extremely violent sexual assault, I was offended to learn Hawai’i does not want to test the backlog of the thousands of untested rape kits in their possession, stating their belief that victims would be too traumatized to handle this knowledge.   My question to those making these decisions would be to ask if they have walked in the shoes of the victims they say they speak for.  Have they met with survivors and taken note of what we have to say about it?  Are we not the experts of our own experiences that lends the ultimate credibility here?  Have they done their due diligence in coming to this conclusion, or is this denial that the backlog is as big of a problem as it truly is?  For 18 years, I felt the discouragement of feeling there was never going to be any justice, to not even know who my attacker was.  I struggled to find some kind of peace, to find any kind of closure.  I also know what it’s like to receive that call, 18 years later…on the anniversary of my attack no less, to be informed that there was a DNA hit on rape kit that had never been tested, that tied to my kit.  I know what it’s like to go through the Grand Jury, the indictment process, to wait the long and agonizing wait for trial, and to go through the unbelievable intensity of trial.  My attacker is now in prison, serving a long sentence.  He is no longer able to hurt anyone else.  I challenge you to take a moment, think, and realize that every single one of those untested rape kits represents a human life, devastated by the circumstances that created that rape kit, who deserves the right to know the truth and seek justice.  To state a victim cannot handle the truth is an insult to each and every single survivor’s journey of healing and right to justice, for the heinous crimes committed against us.  If we were strong enough to survive the assault, why would you think we are not strong enough to handle the knowledge of who are attacker is?  Do not under estimate us.  Do not take away our voice. – Joanie Scheske

I have always believed it was the job of law enforcement to uphold the law. As a survivor, I am offended that law enforcement believes survivors are not strong enough to receive the justice they deserve.  Stop protecting the perpetrators of these felony crimes.  You, as legislators, have the rare opportunity to provide the many victims of sexual assault a certain peace in knowing that the life altering trauma experienced has not been forgotten and continues to be important in the State of Hawai’i. – Carol Bart

Because I know firsthand the extensive trauma of surviving a rape, I am especially disturbed by Hawai’i’s stance. The failure to submit a rape kit does not protect a woman… it tells her that it is not important enough, that she is not important enough.  If the concern is traumatizing a rape victim by bringing up the past, I can assure you that the past is never forgotten.  What rape victims need from law enforcement is to be taken seriously, to be believed.  And we need them to fight for justice.  My detective did just that.  Long before it was the norm, she pushed to have my rape kit tested, which resulted in hits to other unsolved rapes.  Her actions told me that she cared about what happened to me, and that made me feel stronger.  Even if the man who raped me is never caught, I will always feel a debt of gratitude to this woman who fought for me.  Every victim deserves to have someone like her by their side. – Amy Roberts 

Between the 13 years attempting to determine the results of my rape investigation and the six that have followed as an advocate, I have endured nearly two decades of disempowerment and trauma. In this time (over half of my life), there is a single moment that punctuates the longstanding feelings of powerlessness I have lived with–the day that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s finally called me back to tell me that my rape kit had yielded evidence linking my assault to a serial rapist.

A survivor’s desire to have their assault investigated is made clear by their willingness to undergo the complex and harrowing evidence collection process. No further action should be required on their part for law enforcement to assume that their goal in reporting was to obtain justice, and remains so. If they wish to forego further action in the future, they (like any other victim of any other crime) should be entitled to that choice. The emphasis here is on choice. Without offering them that choice, we are sentencing them to a lifetime of impotency. From experience, I can say that there is no greater prison, and no one less deserving of it than survivors of sexual assault. Please help us ensure that the criminals responsible for these unspeakable crimes are the ones who are punished–not their victims. – Helena Lazaro

I was deeply saddened to hear that Hawai’i law enforcement does not want to or is unwilling to test older rape kits. In 1998 after being brutally gang raped by 4 college football players, I had a rape kit done, which in itself was a traumatic experience. Years later, I found out that my kit was never tested and it was destroyed before the statute of limitations had expired. The very system that was supposed to protect me – didn’t. I’m not sure what was worse, the actual gang rape that lasted 6-7 hours or the failure of my community to protect me. Every day I tell myself that “I matter” that what happened to me matters. When we leave rape kits untested and when we refuse to test kits we are not saving victims from further trauma. We are actually inflicting more trauma and we are sending a very clear message that they don’t matter and what happened to them doesn’t matter. We will never change the culture of sexual violence in our country of we don’t realize that victims and law enforcement need to work together. Victims need law enforcement. That is how we shift a culture of violence and put perpetrators away. That is how we keep our communities safe. I would ask that you please reconsider your stance and take this opportunity to send the message to victims – past, present, and future,  that Hawai’i cares and victims of sexual violence in Hawai’i can count on law enforcement to both serve and protect. – Brenda Tracy

 

 

AP Group

 

For Immediate Release

March 18th, 2016 

Rape Survivors ask GA Senate Health & Human Services for HB 827 to be Heard

“Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act” currently threatened in the Committee

New York, NY – The “Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act,” is a highly supported legislative proposal, brought by Representative Scott Holcomb, which would address the untested rape kit backlog in Georgia. At present, there are hundreds of thousands of untested kits collecting dust across the nation. Every rape kit represents a human being whose body was a crime scene. Presently, Georgia has an estimate of more than 3,000 untested rape kits that are awaiting processing.

Recognizing that the bill is now seriously threatened in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, a group of 15 sexual assault survivors – who are also victims of the rape kit backlog – are asking that the “Pursing Justice for Rape Victims Act” (HB 827) be called for a hearing before the Committee. The group is urging Committee Chairperson Senator Renee Unterman to address the failures at Grady Hospital by requiring hospitals to notify law enforcement who must pick up rape kits within 96 hours.

“The 29 year-old brutal rape and homicide of my fourteen year old daughter, Gloria Pointer, was solved thanks to a DNA hit,” said Yvonne Pointer of Ohio, one of the group’s members. “It is very important that all untested kits be tested in order to catch these violence offenders and to take them off the streets to keep others from becoming victims. People in Georgia deserve to know that justice is doing all it can to keep them safe.”

“All victims of sexual violence deserve a voice,” said Susan Schuenemann, a Georgia survivor and advocate. “Victims in Georgia are being silenced and violated systemically by being denied a chance for absolution and justice.”

“The ‘Passing Justice for Rape Victims Act’ will bring systemic change to the way rape evidence is handled,” said Natasha Alexenko, a rape survivor whose kit went untested for nearly a decade. “This is a public safety issue that affects the men, women and children of Georgia. Rape kit reform is long overdue in this country.”

The group, whose message is one of hope and perseverance, meets regularly to compare notes on their state’s progress, discuss rape kit reform, and offer solutions to the problem. Mandating law enforcement to send kits to a lab in a timely manner and addressing accountability through requiring reports on the number of rape kits in inventory are important components the group feels are necessary to improve management and bring accountability and transparency.

Some of the survivors include:

Natasha Alexenko – rape survivor and founder of Natasha’s Justice Project (New York)

Michelle Bowdler – survivor and advocate whose rape kit was “lost” in police custody (Massachusetts)

Carol Bart – survivor and advocate who was never informed her perpetrator was found until she “asked”  24 years later (Texas)

Carol Dillard – discovered rapist went on to rape others in another state when she asked over a decade later. Rapist was never charged with the crime (Virginia)

Helena Lazaro – survivor and advocate who waited over 13 years for justice after being raped at knifepoint (California)

Yvonne Pointer – mother of Gloria Pointer whose rape and murder in 1984 remained unsolved until 2013 (Ohio)

Amy Roberts – case remains unsolved although the DNA has matched other unsolved rape cases. Serial rapist is still at large (Ohio)

Joanie Scheske -received the call on the morning of the 18th anniversary her attack, only to wonder why her attacker remained free to beat, rape, torture and strangle other women at will (Missouri)

Jayann Sepich – mother of murder victim and co-founder of DNA Saves (New Mexico)

Brenda Tracy – rape kit destroyed 3 years prior to the statute of limitation expiring, (Oregon)

Julie Weil – rape survivor and advocate who testifies regularly for reform measures (Florida)

Contact for media inquires or to learn more about a survivor:

Natasha Alexenko

631-219-6842

nsa@natashasjusticeproject.org

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