Shaming and Failing

How a Bungled Police Investigation Led to a Possible Rape Victim’s Shaming

One sexual-assault kit. Clothing — underwear, dress pants, sport jacket, white shirt and shoes. Four vials of blood. One container of urine. Photos of bruises and abrasions on the woman’s body. Dried secretions, soil and debris, suspected semen and saliva. Matted hair cuttings. The Jefferson City Police Department gathered all these things from a young woman named Brittany Burke after she called them to report a possible sexual assault on April 9.

She had been in a blackout, and wasn’t sure what had happened, but a three-hour invasive exam by a sexual-assault nurse examiner found vaginal abrasions consistent with assault. The nurse also noted on her report that suspected semen was present.

Under Missouri law, because the victim was blacked out, she was unable to consent. Under Missouri law, it seemed likely that a crime had occurred.

“I don’t remember what happened to me,” Burke told Jefferson City police detective Curtis Finke. “This isn’t normal.”

Burke also told Detective Finke this: “I’m a female, and I work in politics.” A former staffer for Governor Jay Nixon, she was working as a consultant.

The detective’s report continues, “Burke stated it’s rough for her and the least amount of people that know about this the better.”

Fast-forward two months.

Police decided to close the case, even though lab tests from the rape kit had yet to come back — and even though their own report makes clear that no one knew where Burke was from approximately 1 to 3 a.m. on the morning in question. According to Jefferson City police captain Doug Shoemaker, the department closed the case at Burke’s request — a claim she adamantly denies.

And then the police released their report to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper made the decision to run Burke’s name — and all the juicy details dutifully noted by Detective Finke — in a front-page article June 19 that would have been more at home in a tabloid.

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