Media Archive by Topic: rape kit backlog

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Guest column: End to rape kit backlog will serve healing
February 17, 2014 • The Commercial Appeal
Memphis Mayor AC Wharton and Sarah Tofte
Last week we stood together as Memphis made a public commitment to address and eliminate the city’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. read more
Hargitay hails impact of 'SVU' as It marks 20 seasons
September 21, 2018 • Associated Press
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Mariska Hargitay thinks Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has played a huge role in educating people on sexual violence, but believes there is still a lot of work to do.

The star of the TV drama spoke as the NBC show celebrated its 20th season Thursday at the Tribeca TV Festival.

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Heartbreaking PSA highlights the massive backlog of untested rape kits
February 13, 2018 • HuffPost
Alanna Vagianos

A new public service announcement is shining a much-needed light on the thousands of rape kits that go untested every year in the U.S.

The Joyful Heart Foundation, which created the PSA, estimates that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in law enforcement facilities around the country due to the lack of resources and funding. “Shelved” lays out in 60 seconds the far-reaching impacts of this backlog.

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How Can We Solve America's Backlogged Rape Kit Problem?
May 11, 2017 • Glamour
Cady Drell

Someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. That's a number big and scary enough that you'd think it would be a compelling argument for doing something about it, and yet sexual assault cases rarely even go to trial, let alone lead to a conviction. One part of the problem: It's estimated that 175,000 sexual assault evidence kits — often referred to as "rape kits" — remain untested in evidence storage facilities around the country. 

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How Mariska Hargitay's 'Law & Order' Role Spurred HBO's Sexual Assault Doc
April 24, 2017 • The Hollywood Reporter
Ashley Lee

After 18 years of starring in Law & Order: SVU, Mariska Hargitay is taking on sexual assault offscreen.

The star of NBC’s long-running procedural series is a producer of I Am Evidence, a new documentary highlighting the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in the United States. The dormant status of these kits, some of which have been left in police evidence storage rooms for decades, mirrors the pattern of how the criminal justice system has historically treated sexual assault victims. Meanwhile, perpetrators are never held accountable for their crimes.

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Hundreds of sexual assault kits untested in Missouri
January 5, 2016 • KOMU 8
Emna Nicolas

COLUMBIA – Hundreds of rape and sexual assault kits in Missouri go untested for months or years at a time, while some are never tested at all.

The current state of Missouri’s system to prosecute rapists is failing survivors who made the choice of enduring the four to six-hour examination required to create a kit.

“And they do that with the expectation that the evidence will be used in their case, and that it will be handled appropriately and effectively,” said Ilse Knecht, the Joyful Heart Foundation's policy and advocacy director.

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I AM EVIDENCE examines problem of untested rape kits
April 16, 2018 • CNN
Brian Lowry

After years starring in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mariska Hargitay is now highlighting the subject matter in a new way by producing I AM EVIDENCE, a sobering and timely look at the way rape kits have been left to languish, a policy decision with the ghastly effect of enabling serial perpetrators to continue assaulting women.

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I AM EVIDENCE—Time for justice!
December 13, 2017 • HuffPost
Caroline Hart

If you believe in justice for the victims of sexual abuse, then make Mariska Hargitay’s HBO documentary - I AM EVIDENCE - coming to HBO in the next few months - a priority to watch. It will enrage you to know that over 400,000 rape kits in the USA have remained untested, leaving victims without justice and predators on the loose to rape again.

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If We Want To Take Sexual Assault Seriously, We Need To Test Thousands Of Rape Kits First
December 10, 2013 • ThinkProgress
Tara Culp-Ressler
Here in the United States, which came first: A victim-blaming rape culture, or a police force that doesn’t take sexual assault cases seriously? It’s a classic chicken-and-egg situation. There’s no right answer. read more
In unusual step, victims told of destroyed NC rape kits
January 1, 2018 • Associated Press
Associated Press

When Veronica was raped more than 13 years ago, she says neither the police nor the hospital staff believed her story that a longtime friend attacked her while his mother was in the next room.

“I was treated like a female crying wolf,” said Veronica, who says the man raped her while she was unconscious. She believes he drugged her drink.

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Inside the national effort to combat the rape kit backlog – and how Detroit Is leading the fight
June 9, 2016 • People
Diana Pearl

After Natasha Alexenko was raped and robbed at gunpoint in New York City in 1993, her first instinct was to try to wash the experience off her.

"It was an ordeal that changed my life forever," she says. "And your first instinct after you've been assaulted – at least mine – was to take a hot shower."  

..

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Investigative Report: How Victim-Blaming Led to the Rape Kit Backlog
June 22, 2015 • RH Reality Check
Sofia Resnick
“I honestly understand why a lot of people don’t report rape,” Kiyona Phillips told RH Reality Check in an interview. “Because if you’re not half-dead or beat in the face or it’s not recorded in any kind of way, you really have to prove that this happened to you.” -Kiyona Phillips read more
It's time to test rape kits
May 15th, 2011 • Houston Chronicle
Mariska Hargitay, Sarah Tofte and Annette Burrhus-Clay
Over the last two years, cities across Texas, including Houston, have acknowledged significant backlogs of untested rape kits in their police storage facilities — at least 4,000 kits in Houston and another 16,000 untested kits in Dallas and San Antonio combined. read more
It’s Not a Backlog, It’s a Lack of Concern for Rape Victims
January 15, 2016 • Counterpunch
Lauren Finley

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. “Rape kit” is the term used to describe the physical evidence obtained from a victim who reports being sexually assaulted. Victims’ bodies are, in essence, the crime scene. They endure what some might describe as a second sexual violation, being scraped, poked and prodded, only out of hope that their perpetrator can eventually be held accountable. And perhaps not rape again, as so many do.

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Jefferson County to test backlogged rape kits with new $1.5 million grant
July 20, 2017 • AL.com
Ivana Hrynkiw

The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office doesn't know how many untested rape kits they have-- but they plan to find out, and test them all.

According to information from the district attorney's office, there have been more than 27,000 rapes in Alabama in the past 19 years. Of those, 21 percent took place in Jefferson County. 

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Joyful Heart Foundation and Partners File Amicus Brief in Ohio Case That Could Undermine Justice for Rape Survivors
January 20, 2016 • ENDTHEBACKLOG
Joyful Heart Foundation
We have just filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Ohio, which is appealing the Ohio Court of Appeals’ decision to use the state’s backlog of untested rape kits in part to dismiss rape and kidnapping charges against an alleged serial rapist. Partners AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, Rape Abuse Incest National Network, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) joined Joyful Heart in the filing. read more
Joyful Heart Reveals Rape Kit Backlog Data, but More Remains Unknown
May 20, 2015 • Nonprofit Quarterly
SHAFAQ HASAN

The Joyful Heart Foundation’s Accountability Project, an initiative that’s part of the #EndTheBacklog program focused on identifying the extent of the national rape kit backlog, has released new information detailing the number of untested kits in several cities nationwide.

Through public record requests, the foundation discovered the following totals:

Charlotte, North Carolina: 1,019 untested kits

Jacksonville, Florida: 1,943 kits

Kansas City, Missouri: 1,324 kits

Portland, Oregon: 1,931 kits

San Diego, California: 2,873 kits

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Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault
August 20, 2013 • Thomson Reuters Foundation
Sarah Tofte
Last year, a FedEx delivery truck arrived at the Detroit Police Department storage facility to pick up the first batch of untested rape kits bound, finally, for crime labs. Thus began Detroit’s massive task of processing its rape kit backlog – the more than 11,000 kits that were left behind to languish in a police warehouse, some for more than two decades. read more
Key legislators approve amended version of bill to test rape kits
April 30, 2016 • Honolulu Star Advertiser
Sophie Cocke

Hawaii’s police departments will likely be required to take action on hundreds of rape kits that have sat in storage facilities for years, as well as new rape kits, after key lawmakers Friday agreed to an amended version of House Bill 1907.

The bill gained traction after the Honolulu Police Department revealed in February that it had 1,500 untested kits that contain forensic evidence from rape victims. The untested kits, which could help solve crimes and catch serial rapists, date back more than a decade.

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Kym Worthy: Testing small portion of Detroit's 11,000-plus rape kit backlog identified 100 serial rapists
March 10, 2014 • MLive
Gus Burns
Prosecutor Kym Worthy speaks at a press conference at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice about the 11,000 untested rape kits in the county waiting testing and investigation, Monday, March 10, 2014. Worthy was joined by actress and Joyful Heart Foundation founder Mariska Hargitay to talk about Detroit's progress in testing and getting justice for survivors of sexual assault. read more
Law & Order star promotes Rockland's own SVU in video
May 10, 2013 • Journal News - Lohud.com
Steve Lieberman
Actress Mariska Hargitay talks about helping victims of sexual and domestic abuse on a video released Friday by the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office promoting the county’s “Spirit of Rockland" Special Victims Unit. read more
Law and Order Actress Raises Rape Kit Backlog Awareness
September 29th, 2010 • NBC News
NBC News
The season premiere of NBC's "Law and Order SVU" tackled the ongoing problem of backlogged rape kits sitting untested in police warehouses... delaying the prosecution of rape suspects. It was a problem brought to life in Los Angeles in 2009 and now actress Mariska Hargitay has started a foundation to help raise awareness and funds to get those rape kits tested. read more
Law: North Carolina police must inventory untested rape kits
June 29, 2017 • Associated Press
Christina Sandidge

No one knows how many untested rape kits have been shelved by local police departments throughout North Carolina, leaving victims to wonder if their cases will ever be solved, and leaving perpetrators free to strike again. A new law aims to change that by year's end.

The state budget, enacted this week following a veto override, requires that local law enforcement agencies take inventory of the kits they have and report their findings to the State Crime Lab by January 1.

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Lawsuit expands allegations that city of Houston didn't properly investigate rapes
December 25, 2017 • San Antonio Express-News
Robert Downen

A woman who waited five years for charges to be filed against her alleged rapist is suing the city of Houston, accusing authorities of showing "deliberate indifference" by failing to investigate a backlog of rape kits that could have identified her attacker much earlier.

Beverly Flores last week joined a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in September by another former Houston resident, DeJenay Beckwith. The two women seek damages, saying officials violated their due process and equal protection rights.

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Let’s Talk About It: ‘Hundreds of thousands’ of rape kits are sitting on shelves
January 9, 2017 • Ionia Sentinel-Standard
DomesticShelters.org

It was traumatic enough that in 1996, at just 17 years old, Helena was raped repeatedly by a stranger who approached her at a self-service car wash, pressing a knife to her throat before forcing her to drive to an abandoned truck yard. What followed was 13 years of being ignored by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Her rape kit—collected the same day that her rapist assaulted her, held her hostage, then freed her after threatening to kill her family if she went to police—sat on a shelf somewhere gathering dust for over a decade.

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