Media Archive by Year: 2017

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Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay Doesn't Know Where She Ends & Olivia Benson Begins—And Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
September 27, 2017 • E! News
Chris Harnick

Mariska Hargitay says the character has taught her so much, changing her life and serving as the impetus for the Joyful Heart Foundation.

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Former Houston woman sues city, officials over 6,000 untested rape kits
September 25, 2017 • Houston Chronicle
Gabrielle Banks

A former Houston woman is suing the City of Houston and a long list of current and former mayors and police chiefs for failing to investigate a backlog of more than 6,000 untested rape kits, and not identifying her attacker as a man who had been in a national police database for decades.

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Untested rape exam kits number thousands in Indiana
September 20, 2017 • The Indiana Lawyer
Dave Stafford

Like many states, Indiana has a problem — mountains of untested rape exam kits in local law enforcement agencies that contain DNA evidence potentially identifying sex offenders. Indiana’s backlog of untested kits is certainly in the thousands. Victim advocates say the question is, how many thousands?

No one can accurately answer that question — at least not until Dec. 1. That’s when a report to lawmakers is due from Indiana State Police, detailing the number of untested kits warehoused by law enforcement agencies around the state.

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Bill Introduced to Reduce National Rape Kit Backlog
September 6, 2017 • KTVN Channel 2
KTVN Channel 2

A bill called the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act was introduced today and will reauthorize, strengthen, and extend the Sexual Assault Forensic Registry program in an effort to help reduce the national rape kit backlog.

This legislation would also ensure pediatric forensic nurses are eligible for training, highlighting the need for pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners in responding to children suffering from abuse.

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This Is How Taylor Swift’s Donations Will Impact Sexual Assault Survivors
August 16, 2017 • HuffPost
Alanna Vagianos

After a jury ruled in favor or Taylor Swift in her countersuit against former DJ David Mueller on Monday night, the pop star announced that she would be donating money to organizations to help survivors of sexual assault.

Maile M. Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation, told HuffPost that her organization will be one of several that benefit from Swift’s donations. 

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Taylor Swift Is Already Giving Back To Sexual Assault Survivors Following Groping Case
August 17, 2017 • Refinery29
Meghan Demaria

Taylor Swift won her groping lawsuit against radio DJ David Mueller on Monday. After her victory in court, Swift said she'd donate to organizations that help survivors — and she's already followed through on that promise.

Maile M. Zambuto, CEO of Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday that Swift contacted the organization about making a contribution.

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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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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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30 years after assault, Michelle Bowdler discovered her rapists' DNA was never tested
July 11, 2017 • MassLive
Melissa Hanson

Michelle Bowdler will never know the identities of the two men who broke into her Boston apartment and raped her more than 30 years ago, even though they may have left crucial DNA evidence behind.

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'Law and Order' Star Testifies About Rape Kits, Sexual Violence to Congress
June 16, 2017 • NBC New York
NBC New York

Mariska Hargitay, who plays the tough, dogged lead on "Law & Order: SVU," testified on behalf of real-life rape survivors Friday in front of a task force on sexual violence in the Capitol.

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Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation and the Power of Vulnerability
May 23, 2017 • StyleCaster
Christina Grasso

Mariska Hargitay may be best known for her role as Olivia Benson, the badass lieutenant on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” now going into its 19th season. But what many people may not know is that her work on the hit show inspired her to use her platform for tremendous good by helping survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. In other words, her level of badassery transcends that of her character’s on the show that I, like so many others, grew up watching.

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Why Mariska Hargitay Considers Law & Order: SVU Her "Calling"
May 23, 2017 • E! Online
Chris Harnick

For Mariska Hargitay, playing Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU is more than just a job, it's a calling.

"Every day I get on my knees and thank God for this opportunity. It's not lost on me that God gave me this opportunity, this platform to speak about these issues. I really feel like it was a calling, it's not an accident I came on this show," Hargitay told E! News at The Joyful Heart Foundation gala. "I always wanted to be on service, but it's hard. You say, ‘What do I do? How do I be of service?' and this was an opportunity."

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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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Mariska Hargitay’s Doc ‘I Am Evidence’ Is An Eye-Opening Look At The Rape Kit Backlog
May 2, 2017 • The Huffington Post
Stephanie Marcus

If you were to watch almost any episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” it’s likely that some form of sexual assault would take place, the victim would be given a rape kit at the hospital, and the dedicated detectives investigating would send the kit off to be tested for DNA evidence.

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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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Eagle Club Indoor Golf Raises More Than $10K For Actress Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation
April 11, 2017 • Patch
Nikki Gaskins

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Eagle Club Indoor Golf is excited to announce the recent success of its first ever “Drive-A-Thon” fundraiser. On March 31st and April 1st, San Francisco’s #1 spot for indoor golf culminated its quarter long fundraising campaign with a drive-a-thon to benefit Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives. The money raised—$10,200 total—will benefit the non-profit’s “End the Backlog” campaign.

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It Took 9 Years to Finally Get Justice for My Sexual Assault
April 11, 2017 • Woman's Day
Kristen Mascia

Henrietta Sykes had all but given up on the arrest of the man who allegedly assaulted her. But when officials in her small town uncovered a dirty secret, they were finally able to give her—and hundreds of other women—the justice she deserved.

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Governor's 'No More' proclamation aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence
March 10, 2017 • Hawaii News Now
Shawn Ching

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor has declared March 5 to 12 "Hawaii Says No More" week to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Gov. David Ige presented Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation, with the official proclamation on Friday.

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Mayor declares Hawaii Says NO MORE Week in Honolulu
March 6, 2017 • Khon2
Web Staff

This week is Hawaii Says NO MORE Week in the City and County of Honolulu.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell made an official proclamation Monday in partnership with the Joyful Heart Foundation in a stand against domestic violence and sex assault.

Two years ago, the foundation joined 14 of Hawaii’s leading government and non-profit organizations to launch Hawaii Says NO MORE, a collaboration of individuals, programs, and organizations around Hawaii who are taking action to increase awareness and visibility to prevent and end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Assault survivors have waited too long
March 4, 2017 • Albuquerque Journal
Jayann Sepich and Ilse Knecht

Every year, thousands of individuals who have been sexually assaulted take the step of reporting the crime to the police. They submit to an examination of their body and have evidence collected in a process that typically takes four to six hours. The evidence is saved in a “Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit” – a rape kit.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. When tested, communities can identify serial perpetrators, take dangerous offenders off the streets, exonerate the innocent and prevent future crimes.

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Editorial: A rape kit calamity
February 20, 2017 • Savannah Morning News
Savannah Morning News

Joanie is a Missouri woman who was brutally raped in 1991 by a man she didn’t know and then was virtually ignored by the criminal justice system.

Fortunately, her attacker was eventually caught and sent to prison, thanks to persistent officials in that state who made sure the rape kit taken after her attack was tested and the results shared.

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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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Attorney General's report calls for statewide standards on rape kits
January 3, 2017 • The Baltimore Sun
Alison Knezevich

Police in Maryland should test nearly all rape kits, notify victims of the results and store the kits for a fixed period of time, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said.

A report issued to lawmakers by Frosh's office Tuesday said a lack of statewide guidelines on when to test rape kits and how long to keep them has resulted in police departments adopting inconsistent policies. Some keep the kits indefinitely, but others throw them out.

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