- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the late 1990s, while pregnant with my daughter, I was attacked by a stranger on a local running trail. I was lucky enough that a passing motorist saw that something was wrong and stopped her car to help me. Unfortunately, the man assaulted two other women who weren’t able to escape.

Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, I was not raped, but I have suffered and continue to suffer from the trauma of being assaulted. In the United States alone, there were reports of 248,280 victimsof rape, attempted rape or sexual assault in 2007, thelatest dataavailable. Surveys indicate that 60 percent of rapes are never reported and just 6 percent of rapists are sent to jail. The victims’ lives are changed forever, and the world becomes a much uglier and more dangerous place to live.

A new Japanese video game called RapeLay recently went viral, and users can download it easily at various Web sites. The game allows the player to become a sex-crazed rapist, freely terrorizing a woman and her two teenage daughters in parks, subways and bathrooms. If you impregnate one of the girls, you can force her to have an abortion. I hate even to think about how this kind of “entertainment” will affect the targeted audience - young men - and others who play this game.

The United States gives mixed signals on the issue of rape. Several years ago, Congress tried to address the problem of backlogged rape kits that were tying up uncounted rape cases. The Debbie Smith Act, a bill that provided federal dollars for states to clear up the backlog of rape kits, became law under President George W. Bush in 2004 and was renewed in 2008. Debbie Smith was a woman raped in Virginia whose kit took 10 years to process. In those 10 years, the DNA was successfully matched in her case, but her rapist already had committed other rapes.

This law makes women safer by taking rapists off the street sooner.I was privileged to lobby Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader at the time, to include the Debbie Smith Act in the final package of bills that became its vehicle for passage. Since then, we have learned that funds for rape-kit analysis are going to other uses not intended by the law’s authors. The states are not required to use the federal funds specifically for rape kits, only for DNA backlog, thus allowing for a huge loophole.

According to recent reports, little progress has been made over the years in processing the rape kits, essentially letting rapists run free and leaving women continually exposed to attackers.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, has repeatedly asked the chairman, Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, to take steps to address the issue, but Mr. Conyers has yet to show any interest in fixing the law. At the very least, our female leaders in Congress, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, should step up to the plate. However, instead of protecting women, they have burdened them with tampon and breast-pump taxes included in the massive government health care reform bill.

We need a resolution on rape kits, and we need it now. Games like RapeLay terrify me because of the disrespect for women, and their unborn children, that they inherently espouse. And because of some people in state governments who are misusing federal funds intended to help bring rapists to justice, women unfortunately are placed in a vulnerable and scary position, and they certainly don’t deserve that. Congress needs to man up and protect women.

Penny Nance is chief executive of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public-policy women’s organization.

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