Media Archive by Year: 2017

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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