The city of Houston has turned to a somewhat unorthodox source of revenue to finance the analysis of rape kits taken from victims, of which the Houston Police Department has a backlog of about 6,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Houston strip clubs to be taxed
According to the Wall Street Journal, strip clubs in Houston will be assessed a $5 per visitor fee, called in the vernacular a "pole tax" to finance the testing of rape kits. This is on top of a $5 per visitor fee assessed by the state of Texas, part of which also goes to financing the testing of rape kits.
The rape kit backlog
The backlog of rape kits has been an ongoing problem at the Houston Police crime lab, which the Houston Chronicle reports has been plagued with problems and scandal for years. The law firm of Tad Nelson and Associates suggests that the backlog has caused problems not only for rape victims, but defendants for whom the DNA evidence may be exculpatory. A rape kit generally contains swabs, hair samples, nail cuttings, blood, and clothing taken during a hospital rape examination. Reasons given for not testing a rape kit include instances when a suspect has not been identified, the prosecutor has not requested a test, the victim has chosen not to prosecute, or police investigators are uncertain whether it contains useful information.
Why strip clubs are being singled out for a tax
The Wall Street Journal quotes supporters of the new pole tax, including Houston Mayor Annise Parker, that strip clubs tend to foster unhealthy attitudes toward women which in return can lead to sexual assaults. Hence, strip clubs should shoulder the burden of testing the backlog of rape kits.
Experts disagree on the connection of sexual oriented businesses and sexual assault
The Wall Street Journal goes on to quote a variety of experts who dispute the notion that strip club and other sexual-oriented businesses foster sexual violence. The University of Texas at Austin published a report in 2009 that found no study suggesting a connection between alcohol, sexual oriented businesses, and violence.
How strip clubs have reacted to the pole tax
Owners of Houston strip clubs, of which 30 would be subject to the new tax, according to the Wall Street Journal, are not happy about the tax or the implication that their clients, mostly male, are potential rapists. One member of the Houston City Council, Jack Christie, who supported the new tax is unimpressed, noting the number of large denomination bills that get spent on tips for exotic dancers.
Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.