Albuquerque’s mayor had some strong words about how the Albuquerque Police Department previously handled rape investigations.
He said thousands of rape kits weren’t tested because of doubts about the victims’ stories, and says that culture has to change.
“There’s no doubt historically that there’s a clear bias against believing women and children,” said Mayor Tim Keller.
He uncovered there were more than 5,000 untested rape kits in New Mexico while he was state auditor.
Four-thousand of those were from Albuquerque, and he wanted to know why so many were sitting in bins, untested instead of obtaining a DNA profile of the alleged attacker and seeing if there’s a match in DNA databases.
“For a huge portion of the kits that come in, people are essentially not believing the victim or family members,” said Keller.
He said more than half of the untested kits fit that category, and he took to social media to call out the problem.
“People would say these old excuses like, ‘so and so might have been partially consenting.’ Or, if it’s family a lot of times too, no one wants to talk about it,” he said.
There are still bins upon bins stacked up at APD’s crime lab. A third of the kits have since been tested.
“Frequently the victim’s story may not make sense and that’s because of the way memories are stored when we’re undergoing a trauma,” said Kelly Shelton with the Rape Crisis Center.
She said doubts about a victim’s story can come from every angle, not just from police.
“Anyone, other professionals that come into contact with survivors, there is more and more out there about what it means to be trauma-informed, and why we should believe victims,” said Shelton.
Mayor Keller said the current culture surrounding rape allegations has got to go.
“It has been very refreshing that there has been this focus now on believing victims,” she said.
As a third of the untested kits have now been tested, Mayor Keller said he hopes in the next year and a half they will have all the kits tested.
It’s unclear how many of these rape kits could lead to prosecution.
Last year, city council passed the resolution, setting rules for the testing of all rape kits, saying it honors victims, helps with public trust and adds to the DNA database.