Our Response to the Rape Kit Backlog News in Hawai‘i this Week

"To me, the rape kit backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society. For that reason, the Joyful Heart Foundation and I have made ending it our top priority. Earlier this month, I traveled o Hawai‘i —Joyful Heart's birthplace—to join our partners in this work, learn more about what is happening on the ground, and offer my support and resources to shine a light on this work. We will continue to stand with survivors in Hawai‘i  and across the nation to increase transparency, implement rape kit reform, and bring justice to survivors who have waited far too long."
- Mariska Hargitay, Joyful Heart Foundation Founder & President

At the end of this year’s legislative session, House Bill 1907—mandating the testing of all previously backlogged and untested rape kits, and the swift testing of all new kits—was passed unanimously by both chambers of the Hawai‘i legislature and later signed into law by Governor Ige. It was a momentous occasion for our community.

As significant as this legislation was, there is still much more to do to fully reform our state's processing of rape kits.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now reported this week that all four of Hawai‘i’s county police departments have missed the legislatively-mandated deadline for counting the number of untested kits in their storage facilities. As we told Mileka Lincoln at Hawaii News Now, Joyful Heart remains hopeful that the county police departments will fulfill their obligation. This is a crucial component of creating rape kit reform in our state.

Another essential component of reform is the report being developed by a workgroup of community stakeholders tasked with making recommendations about how to move forward. Because Joyful Heart was not invited to participate in this workgroup, we declined to comment on their process and findings until their report is complete. However, we look forward to reviewing the final recommendations, and we remain committed to contributing our national and local expertise.

Each kit represents a survivor who deserves justice. When tested, rape kit evidence can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, and identify serial offenders. Many communities' rape kit testing efforts are taking violent offenders off the streets—many whom have escaped justice for decades—and improving public safety.

As our CEO, Maile Zambuto, has said, "It has been a historic moment for us to usher in rape kit reform in Hawai‘i, our birthplace, and we will continue moving forward together, in partnership with our local community, until every kit is tested."

True change cannot come without collaboration and partnership, and we stand ready to serve to help bring justice to survivors in our state—and across the country.

- By Kata Issari, Joyful Heart Foundation Hawai‘i Executive Director.

END THE BACKLOG is an initiative 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.

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END THE BACKLOG is a JOYFUL HEART FOUNDATION initiative and a proud supporter of