Athens-Clarke County Police have dismissed the three reported rapes this semester involving University students.

That's because it is difficult to prove all three elements of rape: penetration, no consent and force.

"It is extremely difficult to prosecute a rape case," ACC District Attorney Ken Mauldin said.

Of the 46 rapes reported to ACC Police in 2004, only 28 made it to the district attorney's office and 27 were presented to a grand jury.

Georgia law defines rape as male penetration of a female forcibly and against her will. So far this year, 27 rapes have been reported to ACC Police.

ACC Police Lt. Greg Paul said they investigate every reported rape, but the likelihood of solving a case affects how police handle it.

A case's "solvability potential" includes whether the suspect's identity is known, the availability of a witness, traceable property taken, an identifiable suspect vehicle and intoxication, Paul said.

"Alcohol has an impact on the gravity of proving a case," he said "If she does not know or remember what happened, then our case is hard to prove. But it improves our odds when she is aware of her faculties."

Police declared unfounded a case in which a University student flagged down police Aug. 23 at 390 E. Washington St. and told them she was possibly raped.

Paul said she couldn't recall the events of that night and there were no witnesses, which prevented them from finding any evidence to verify the reported rape.

The same applies to the University student who reported to University Police Aug. 19 she was raped at an unknown residence.

University Police forwarded the case to ACC Police, who closed it on Aug. 22.

"The victim had no idea of what or where it occurred," Paul said. "There was nothing to indicate that she had sex."

Mauldin said sometimes it is evident that the woman had sex, but it is more difficult to prove that she didn't give consent and that the act was forced.

Police cleared another case in which a University student reported being raped Aug. 19 at her residence near Five Points while hosting a party.

Paul said investigators did not find evidence proving that the sex was forced.

The only case of the four that The Red & Black reported this semester that is still under investigation involved an underage high school student. Two University students found her barely conscious in their Polo Club apartment after a gathering Aug. 26 and told police she may have been raped.

Even when the evidence of rape is present, crime lab results sometimes take so long that the victim changes her mind about pressing charges.

Because the state crime lab is overwhelmed, it takes six months to a year to return results. The lab processes swabs and combings of the victim's body for blood, semen, hairs and other fibers and runs them through the database of convicts or compares them to the suspects, Paul said.

The trial for a rape reported by a University student in 2004 is set to begin next month.

"We spend a lot of time waiting on the crime lab," Maudlin said.

Sometimes the results don't match the suspect or the results come back negative.

"If there is no match, then obviously we don't have much of a case," Paul said.

Mauldin said although DNA usually confirms penetration, there is no DNA evidence with a majority of the cases. A lack of DNA evidence "does not mean that penetration did not occur," Mauldin added, noting he does not need DNA to send a case to trial.

"There are no magic words to charge a case," he said. "It just depends on the facts and circumstances."

Conflicting testimonies, cell phone records and overturned furniture have been sufficient evidence in the past to send a rape case to court, he said.

Ashley Ivey, victim assistance program coordinator for ACC, said it often boils down to one person's word against another.

Officials emphasize there is no set "formula" to push a rape case to trial.

"There isn't a pat answer. There are just too many factors," Ivey said. "Every single case is different."

Once ACC Police find "conclusive evidence" that the sex was against a woman's will, they send the case investigation to Mauldin's office.

After reviewing a case, if Mauldin and the victim agree to prosecute, subpoenas are issued to witnesses and the case is presented to a grand jury.

During this closed-door setting, the jury decides if there is "probable cause," Mauldin said.

Then an arraignment is set where the suspect makes his plea. If the suspect pleads not guilty, a trial date is set.

"We are very supportive of the victim and try to assess the case in a very frank way," Ivey said.

But in the end, the decision to prosecute hinges on whether there is enough evidence to meet the state's definition of rape.

"It's all or nothing," she said.

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