Bingham County, Idaho, Sheriff Craig Rowland raised eyebrows and controversy on March 14 when he told a local TV news station that most rapes are "consensual sex" (video below).
Rowland was being interviewed about a bill that would require medical clinics to use rape kits to gather evidence after an alleged rape, and then send the kit to a lab for DNA testing, unless the victim opposes or the police get approval from prosecutors not to test the evidence, notes The Associated Press.
Rowland told Local News 8 that lawmakers should leave the current system in place, which allows law enforcement to decide if rape kits need DNA testing.
"They need to let us decide if we're going to send the kit in or when we send the kits in," Rowland stated. "Because the majority of our rapes, not to say that we don't have rapes, we do, but the majority of our rapes that are called in are [actually] consensual sex."
Rowland then described an alleged rape victim, a 17-year-old girl who had consensual sex with her boyfriend, but didn't know how to inform her parents. He also said that the parents might get mad because she'd had consensual sex.
The rape kit bill was passed unanimously by lawmakers, and has been sent to Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho.
Meanwhile, Rowland's logic was challenged by Ilse Knecht, policy and advocacy director for the Joyful Heart Foundation.
"It's hard to know if a claim is false if the kits don't get tested," Knecht told The Associated Press. "Each one of these kits represents a survivor ... We need to take their claim seriously, treat them with respect and use the evidence."
Rowland wrote a response to the outrage on the Bingham County Sheriff's Office Facebook page on March 16: "I misspoke when I said the majority of our rape cases are consensual sex."
After explaining his office's rape investigation procedure, Rowland added:
In some of these cases through the investigation it may be determined that the sex was consensual, but not always. In these types of cases after the investigation is complete and it was determined that the sex was consensual I don't believe that those kits should be sent to the lab.
This has been a very humbling experience and I now know that I have to clarify myself more when speaking of sensitive matters such as this. I know that it is hard for victims to come forward on sexual assault cases.
I spoke to a rape victim today and told her that I knew it was hard for her to come forward. I want to apologize to anyone who I might have offended with my statement as my main responsibility is to the public’s safety and well being and maintaining their trust. I did a 10 minute interview and this is what came out of it and for that I am truly sorry.
I can also say with regret that I now know what it is like to be cyber bullied. Not only have I been threatened but so has my family. I hope that this will clear things up a bit.