June 2016 • Monitor on Psychology 31
certainly found that Detroit, like many other cities, was under-resourced. That’s absolutely part of the cause.
But it was by no means the only cause, and not even the
major cause, in Detroit. When we read the police reports
associated with the untested kits, we saw pervasive victim-blaming.
We did detailed content analyses of the police reports to
understand how and why it was that police decided, “I’m not
going to submit this kit.” And we saw very negative attitudes
toward victims, particularly toward adolescent victims and
toward victims who were sexually assaulted by people they
And so when police didn’t believe the victims, and they
reframed what happened as “he said, she said,” or thought that
the victim might be engaged in prostitution, they thought,
“Well, there’s no point in testing it.” And they just kept doing
that, in case after case after case. And after 30 years, that’s what
accumulates — 8,700 untested rape kits.
What’s the significance of all those untested kits,
from a law-enforcement perspective?
I think it represents a lot of different things. It represents
a missed opportunity in preventing a crime. It’s a missed
opportunity at holding perpetrators accountable. It’s a really
important investigative tool that they weren’t utilizing. It was a
really important source of evidence that prosecutors could have
been using in court.
And finally, it could have been an incredibly important tool
for survivors, to know that what had happened to them had
happened to other women and men, and that police were trying
to do something about it.
A rape evidence collection kit involves a very invasive exam.
Michigan State University psychologist Dr. Rebecca Campbell
led an effort to determine why 8,717 rape test kits had never
been tested. She found it was partly due to entrenched biases
against sexual assault victims.