Fewer than 10 percent of women who are raped in New Orleans end up going to the police, estimates Dale Standifer, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children, which runs a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of rape and sexual assault.
"It's very difficult for rape victims to go to the police," Standifer says. "You've got the humiliation of the rape in the first place, and then I've sat through many rape exams with victims, and it's a humiliating experience — and then in many cases you have police officers who don't believe you.
"There's all these things going against people to even go forward to begin with," she says. "And then the other thing is, OK, so they don't catch the rapist. If they don't even get the ones that are walking around, then for the rest of your life, any time the victim goes anywhere, she's wondering if he's out to get me again. So your whole life view changes, and the world is no longer a safe place to be. You don't trust your judgment."
On the other hand, successfully prosecuting a rapist allows victims to move on with their lives, says former Assistant District Attorney Cate Bartholomew.
"The ability to get back on your feet and stand up for yourself and get your voice back can be really positive and significant for a lot of women," she says. "That's been my experience as a prosecutor. And in the CODIS cases, there's a significant closure factor that lets a lot of women move on with their lives, because the CODIS cases are all stranger cases. It's not someone they knew. Women don't have to look over their shoulder all the time and wonder if he's still out there."