On Monday, French authorities announced that they would DNA test 527 male students and staff at Fenelon-Notre Dame high school to help find the man responsible for the rape of a 16-year-old student at the school last year. It's hard to imagine U.S. authorities responding in the same way to a similar crime.
Chantal Devaux, the school director, told the Associated Press, "This happened during the school day in a confined space. The decision to take such a large sample was made because it was the only way to advance the investigation." The victim has been unable to identify her rapist, since he approached her from behind in the school's dark bathroom last September. Without any other leads, local authorities decided that DNA testing all the men who were on campus the day of the rape was the next logical step. If a man refuses the testing, that decision can be used against him in court. The testing will be conducted this week and cost about $6,900.
U.S. authorities have been more laissez-faire about prosecuting rapists. There are currently 400,000 untested rape kits sitting on shelves across America. Tennessee just voted to cut $2 million from the budget that was supposed to help clear the rape kit backlog in the state. At a time when activists argue more funding is needed to make use of DNA evidence from rapes, existing funding is being cut.
On the federal level, Congress voted last week to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act, which funds efforts to clear the backlog. But President Obama's 2015 budget calls for $35 million more in funding, which would be distributed by the Justice Department as grants to individual states. Tennessee, for example, could apply for a DOJ grant, as long as state authorities agree to use the money to test the evidence and "create multi-disciplinary teams to investigate and prosecute cases connected to the backlog," according to The Washington Post.
Congress, of course, is wary of new grant programs and unlikely to appropriate more funds to the DOJ in 2015. Which is funny, because French authorities felt they had "no choice" but to gather and test all DNA evidence in the Fenelon-Notre Dame case.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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