This week a 27-year-old rape case ended in a guilty verdict and a huge wave of relief for the victim, LaToya Gaines.
“It was relieving,” she said. “It let me know that there is justice.”
Most rape cases in New Orleans don’t end with a conviction. Most don’t even lead to an arrest. The clearance rate, which is the percentage of cases that are cleared by an arrest or an exception, for rape this year is a paltry two percent.
Advocates had a private meeting with the NOPD. Detectives on the police force explained that the low number had a lot to do with factors like having homeless victims who are hard to get in contact with or victims who don’t want to have a forensic exam or talk to detectives.
In addition, the crime of sexual assault is also up significantly, with 633 reported cases so far this year, as opposed to 461 at the same time last year.
“For a lot of people, telling that assault to a man or an authority figure in general can be scary,” said Alix Tarnowsky, an advocate for sexual assault victims.
A lot has also changed in how sexual assaults are classified. In the past, sexual assaults were often classified as a miscellaneous incident, which gave an inaccurate perception of the amount of cases that were solved.
Now that rape cases are being classified and reported more uniformly, there is a better look at what is going on. At the moment, the findings are troubling to advocates and victims alike.