This week, I stood with Mariska Hargitay, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, and several pioneers and fierce advocates of rape kit reform at a press conference where the District Attorney’s office announced an incredible commitment to help end the rape kit backlog nationwide: $35 million in funding for jurisdictions to test backlogged rape kits. The Joyful Heart Foundation is honored to serve as a partner and technical advisor on this first-of-its-kind grant program that will assist jurisdictions across the country with the funding they so desperately need to analyze the untested rape kits in their police storage facilities.
This is a watershed moment in the movement to ENDTHEBACKLOG. As Mariska said to District Attorney Vance at the press conference, the commitment that he has made is nothing short of heroic.
This is the single largest financial contribution toward ending the rape kit backlog to date. For years, cities committed to comprehensive rape kit reform have been searching for the resources necessary to test their rape kits. This new grant initiative provides them with the help they need. With this money, thousands of rape kits will be tested—and thousands of survivors will have a chance of seeing perpetrators of rape brought to justice.
But testing kits is just the first step toward healing for survivors, accountability for perpetrators, and safety for our communities. Jurisdictions must also commit to investigating and following up on leads generated by testing, re-engaging survivors with compassion and care and moving cases forward to prosecution. If cities lack the resources to follow up on those leads, cases will continue to go unsolved, serial offenders will remain undetected, and survivors will be left without justice.
Congress now has the opportunity to ensure that the testing of backlogged rape kits has the greatest impact possible. We need your help to make sure it does. The House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committee included $41 million in their Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bills for FY15 that would provide grants to local communities to investigate and prosecute new cases that result from testing, re-engage survivors and create system-wide reforms to ensure that a backlog never occurs again. Ask your Senator to make addressing the rape kit backlog a priority. Sending your letter takes less than a minute and goes a long way to ensuring our voices are heard.
Congress must act now and do its part to provide local stakeholders with the resources they need to bring healing, justice and safety to their communities. This is a critical investment that sends an important message to survivors that they—and their cases—matter.
- By Sarah Tofte, November 14, 2014
ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.