Media Archive by Year: 2017

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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Detroit’s rape kit backlog identified more than 800 serial rapists
December 19, 2017 • The Daily Dot
Samantha Grasso

Detroit’s eight-year dive into its untested rape kit backlog identified more than 800 serial rapists, illustrating the importance for law enforcement to take sexual violence seriously as part of the “Me Too” movement empowering survivors around the world.

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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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Schimel: Flood of submissions slowing sexual assault kit testing
December 6, 2017 • Associated Press
Associated Press

Attorney General Brad Schimel says a glut of submissions nationwide is slowing progress on analyzing thousands of untested sexual assault kits on Wisconsin police department shelves.

The Joyful Heart Foundation has been pushing states to analyze untested kits in hopes of developing DNA profiles for serial offenders.

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Why 5,396 sexual assault kits went untested in Indiana
December 1, 2017 • The Indianapolis Star
Marisa Kwiatkowski

There are 5,396 sexual assault kits held in police custody that have not been tested, according to the results of an Indiana State Police audit.

State senators had adopted a resolution in April that urged State Police to count the number of untested sexual assault kits throughout the state and determine reasons why they were not tested.

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Mariska Hargitay and ‘I Am Evidence’ want to eliminate the rape kit backlog
November 29, 2017 • IndieWire
Jean Bentley

When Mariska Hargitay landed the role of Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she had no idea that it would turn her into an activist for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. But in 2017, almost two decades after the long-running show began, she’s helped spearhead a mission to eliminate the rape-kit backlog in the U.S. — and has produced a documentary with HBO and her former SVU coworker Trish Adlesic called “I Am Evidence” that helps bring the issue to light.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mariska Hargitay and other well-known New Yorkers give. Here’s why.
November 28, 2017 • The New York Times
The New York Times

After the post-Thanksgiving shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, which kicks off the season of charitable giving.

As The New York Times continues its Neediest Cases Fund campaign, we reached out to some prominent New Yorkers to ask them to name an organization to which they devote their resources.

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Missouri rape kit audit set to be done in early 2018
November 27, 2017 • Associated Press
Associated Press

The Missouri Attorney General's Office says it hopes to determine by early next year how many untested rape kits are on shelves in Missouri, a first step in an effort to improve the state's response to sexual assault.

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Seven Changes That Would Empower the #MeToo Movement
November 25, 2017 • Newsweek
Marci A. Hamilton

The social media campaign #MeToo has been an extraordinary space where victims of sex harassment and assault have found their voices.

These victims are inspiring and you just want to believe that something good must come out of all of the pain that they have had to endure so long in silence.

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Locals, lawmaker speak out about Georgia’s rape kit backlog
November 18, 2017 • Savannah Morning News
Brittini Ray

It’s been four years since Paige Bullard was sexually assaulted on Savannah State University’s campus, but her journey as a rape victim advocate is just getting started.

And she says one of the biggest lessons that she has learned is that “what happened to her did not have to happen to someone else.”

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Mass. House approves proposal to create tracking system for untested rape kits and evaluate backlog
November 15, 2017 • MassLive
Scott J. Croteau

The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a proposal to overhaul the state's policy for tracking and testing rape kits.

The proposal was adopted as an amendment to the criminal justice reform bill passed Tuesday night. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr. proposed the amendment, which calls for the creation of a rape kit tracking system with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

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From #MeToo to Men Too: How Men Can Prevent Harassment and Abuse
November 13, 2017 • HuffPost
Marianne Schnall

Since the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story broke the floodgates, every day brings new allegations of powerful men assaulting or harassing women, and millions of women have been publicly sharing their personal stories and declaring “#MeToo.” But why is the onus always on the women to share their stories, to be the only ones leading the outcry and call for change? Both men and women are asking how men can get more involved in this movement and are committed to educating men on how to use their voices and influence to become part of the solution.

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Anthony Edwards Discloses His Own Sexual Assault Story
November 10, 2017 • UPROXX
Dan Seitz

Anthony Edwards, best known for his work on ER and in Top Gun, has been working to discuss male victims of sexual assault for a long time, working with groups like Joyful Heart to raise awareness that sexual assault is a problem for everyone. Edwards recently took to Medium, however, to lay bare the personal impetus behind this: That he’s a survivor of sexual assault as well.

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How #MeToo could move from social campaign to social change
November 9, 2017 • CNN
Sandee LaMotte

A CALL TO MEN launch the Joyful Heart Foundation, which includes an op-ed and public service announcement featuring male celebrities.

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October 30, 2017 • HuffPost
Maile M. Zambuto and Ted Bunch

Celebrities, our friends, our sisters, our daughters, and ourselves—are speaking out about sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. From the simple yet powerful #MeToo to women’s detailed personal accounts in news stories and op-eds, this violence is at the forefront of our attention. The volume of the conversation is way up, getting louder, and showing no sign of stopping. It is inescapable.

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Private film screening highlights problem of unexamined sexual assault kits
October 24, 2017 • WIBW News
WIBW News Now

Following the I AM EVIDENCE screening, Wayne County, Michigan Prosecutor Kym Worthy facilitated a discussion about the value of testing sexual assault kit evidence and establishing a victim-centered approach to sexual assault response.

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Federal Dollars Help Clear Untested Rape Kits
October 6, 2017 • News LI
Andrea Sears

New York City is getting some federal help to eliminate its backlog of untested rape kits.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is distributing $34 million to 20 jurisdictions around the country. The grants will help test kits that have often sat in evidence lockers for years, prosecute those identified by DNA analysis, and keep victims informed.

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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 •
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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