When the team at Joyful Heart began gathering data for the new interactive map on endthebacklog.org, illustrating everything we know about the rape kit backlog, we worried that the map might be a bit bare. Looking now at the final version of the map, the results are actually very powerful.
Ann M. is the mother of a survivor who was raped when she was just 12 years old in her own home. Her family had to wait ten years for the perpetrator’s arrest. Ann, along with other courageous survivors, played an integral role in advocating for the recent passage of a law expanding New York State’s DNA Databank to include samples from offenders convicted of all crimes. We thank her for sharing her story and giving a voice to survivors across New York.
During a 2010 audit of the Detroit crime lab, which was shut down in 2008 due to testing irregularities, officials discovered approximately 11,000 untested rape kits in Detroit storage facilities. Following the discovery, a collaborative team of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, researchers and victim advocates came together to work toward eliminating the backlog.
After a decades-long campaign by women’s rights advocates, the FBI recently announced that it would revise the definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Written more than 80 years ago, the current definition is problematic for several reasons.
In an article from Hawai‘i last week, “Evidence Ignored in Unsolved Rapes,” Adrienne LaFrance of the Honolulu Civil Beat examines the backlog of untested rape kits in the state’s capital city. In 2009, the last year for which data were available, 109 cases of the city’s 243 rape cases–or 45 percent–went unsolved and between 60 and 80 percent of the rape kits collected that year–a total of 139–were never to the city’s crime lab for testing.
Supporters sign over 400 letters calling for comprehensive, compassionate and victim-centered rape kit reform.
Polly Poskin, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, took some time to speak with me about her work to end sexual violence in Illinois, the progress on there on the rape kit backlog and the culture of violence against women. Her words were incredibly informed and powerful and this transcript hardly seems to do them justice. We are pleased to be sharing this interview with you today.
One of Endhtebacklog.org’s policy focuses is on ensuring healing and justice for survivors of sexual assault. There’s a lot of people behind this effort and we have tremendous respect for the work of those who help others cope with trauma. This work is not always easy. Today Chris Vargo, Joyful Heart’s New York Manager of Programs shares a bit about vicarious trauma and Joyful Heart’s Heal the Healers program.
In January, we ran our first Global Dispatch, a recurring feature in which Joyful Heart Foundation showcases the stories of those working around the world to ensure justice and healing for survivors of sexual assault. The first Global Dispatch came from Amy Ernst, a volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country she says is often referred to as “the worst place on earth to be a woman,” where rape is frequently used as a weapon of war. Despite the violence in the region, Amy says she finds hope in the way women create a community of family, strength, love and laughter.
The Lydia Martinez Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration Awards were presented to five recipients in honor of the late First Grade Detective C. Lydia Martinez, a remarkable Special Victims Detective in New York City. I had the privilege of meeting Lydia and the strength, compassion and light that emanated from her were incredible. On Monday, her colleagues and friends, many of whom filled the room in which we were sitting, spoke about the indelible effect she had on their lives, the lives of the survivors she served and on the city’s collective response to sexual assault by law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates and medical personnel.