In an op-ed published in the Boston Herald this week, Linda Fairstein responds to the “untrue and absurd” arguments of opponents of testing the backlog of rape kits in the United States. Fairstein is a best-selling novelist, the Vice-Chair of Joyful Heart’s Board of Directors and for more than 25 years, was the chief prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit.

The fact that there are estimated to be almost a quarter of a million untested rape evidence collection kits collecting dust in police department warehouses across this country remains a national embarrassment. The movement to eliminate this backlog and process the evidence for DNA testing to identify violent offenders is gaining supporters, although opposed by naysayers who are ignorant of the facts of what sexual assault survivors achieve in the criminal justice system when they are backed by the powerfully effective tool of a DNA identification.

From 1976 until 2002, I was the prosecutor in charge of the country’s pioneering Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and among the first lawyers to be introduced to the revolutionary science of genetic fingerprinting in 1986, three years before it was accepted by our courts. When the first data banks became operational in 1994, I watched in amazement as computers began to match offenders to profiles developed from evidence gathered in meticulous medical exams from the crime scene itself: the victim’s body.

By 1999, New York City’s mayor and police commissioner outsourced the 17,000 rape evidence kits that had never been tested to private labs in an attempt to offer justice to victims and to hold the rapists—quite often recidivists—accountable.

It is true that close to 90 percent of sexual assault victims know their attackers. But DNA provides a function in every trial involving sexual assault.

When most offenders are arrested—even in ‘‘date rape’’ cases, the first line of defense is usually, “I didn’t do it, I wasn’t there, we didn’t have sex.” After a positive DNA match, the defense then morphs to the tired claim: “OK, we had sex. But she wanted it.”

DNA cannot tell us whether the encounter was forcible, but it is a potent piece of evidence to support the victim’s version of events, even when consent is the issue.

One of the misconceptions spread by rape kit naysayers is that information gained violates privacy rights of victims. This is untrue and absurd. With the passage of rape shield laws around this country in the 1970s, prosecutors are now able to protect victims from unwarranted explorations of their most personal matters.

In every jurisdiction that has moved to eliminate this outrageous backlog, the results have been dramatic. Serial stranger rapists have been identified, acquaintance rapists—some of whom have gone on to rape strangers and others who have attacked multiple victims known to them—have been brought to justice, offenders have been convicted even in cases in which victims have since died of natural causes, and there have been exonerations, too, of men wrongly identified.

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, through her Joyful Heart Foundation, has taken on a national project to end the rape kit backlog. Her opponents have not heard from the hundreds of victims who respond to the astounding news of a DNA match in a longstanding cold case with profound gratitude.

Ending the backlog will solve thousands more of these cases, take violent offenders off the streets and, most importantly, continue to save lives.