Through our advocacy programs, Joyful Heart seeks greater access to justice and healing for survivors.

If a survivor chooses to report the rape to the police, the evidence in the rape kit, a medical examination of a victim to preserve DNA evidence, can be a very powerful tool to bring a perpetrator to justice.Every 92 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. 

The DNA evidence contained in rape kits can be an incredibly powerful tool to solve and prevent crime. It can identify an unknown assailant and confirm the presence of a known suspect; affirm the survivor's account of the attack and discredit the suspect; connect the suspect to other crime scenes and identify serial offenders; and it can exonerate the wrongly convicted. To accomplish these things, the rape kits must be tested. 

And yet, hundreds of thousands of times, a decision is made not to process the evidence. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country in what is known as the rape kit backlog. Each kit represents a lost opportunity to bring healing and justice to a survivor of sexual violence and safety to a community. 

“To me, the backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society. Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your case matters. For that reason, The Joyful Heart Foundation, which I founded in 2004, has made ending the rape kit backlog our number one advocacy priority.” — Mariska Hargitay

End The Backlog

End The Backlog is our initiative dedicated solving this problem. We have one clear, ambitious goal: to eliminate the existing backlog of untested rape kits across the United States and prevent the backlog from happening again.

Our work is focused on advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies that are survivor-centered, as well as expanding the national dialogue about rape kit testing through increased public awareness.

We are currently working toward these goals through several strategic advocacy and education campaigns:

  • Legislative campaign. We are leading a multi-year, nationwide advocacy campaign to pass rape kit reform in all 50 states by 2020. To learn more about the status of rape kit reform where you live, view our interactive map.
  • Federal advocacy. We advocate for continued support of the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grants and other critical grant programs on Capitol Hill. 
  • Uncovering the extent of the backlog. With our pro bono partner Goodwin LLP, we have issued public records requests to law enforcement agencies and crime labs in 49 jurisdictions. As of January 2018, we have uncovered nearly 39,000 untested rape kits at 41 agencies and brought to light the lack of consistent policies and procedures for the handling of rape kits. See what we have discovered through The Accountability Project.
  • Education and awareness. We engage the general public, using media coverage, our website, and social media platforms for public education and grassroots advocacy efforts. 

Ending the backlog starts with knowing about it—educating yourself and others. Visit to learn more about the backlog and our work to eliminate it.

Join our efforts

Learn more about the rape kit backlog and ways you can help.

Advocate: Contact your elected officials

Encourage your representatives to pass legislation that will end the backlog in your state and prevent future backlogs.

Spread the word

Share with your community. Email your friends and family, tweet it, blog it, and spread the word anyway you can. Help us keep this conversation going.

Printer-friendly version