Joyful Heart is proud to share with you the new ENDTHEBACKLOG.org, our website dedicated to shining a light on and ending the rape kit backlog—hundreds of thousands of rape kits collected in the aftermath of a sexual assault, sitting untested in police and crime lab storage facilities.
Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. They overcome the terrible, misplaced social stigma of being the victim of sexual violence. A forensic exam of their bodies typically takes four to six hours. The evidence is then collected in a “Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit” — a rape kit.
Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. They overcome the terrible, misplaced social stigma of being the victim of sexual violence. They overcome the warnings sometimes uttered by the rapist to keep silent. They overcome the suggestions that these issues ought not to be spoken of, and they speak up.
The forensic examination of their bodies, the crime scene, typically takes four to six hours, and yields what is called a rape kit. And experts estimate there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits sitting untested throughout the country.
We are happy to share with you that we have raised more than $5,500 through our GlobalGiving project to continue our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits and bring healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault.
Last week, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill expanding the state’s DNA Databank. With bipartisan support in a 50 to 10 vote, the Senate adopted Governor Cuomo’s proposal to expand the Databank to include DNA samples from offenders convicted of all felony crimes and every penal law misdemeanor. Under the current law, the Databank captures offender DNA profiles for only 46% of crimes.
We just received the incredible news from Texas that Governor Rick Perry has signed a bill into law that makes Texas the second state in the country, after Illinois, to pass significant rape kit reform. The new law, which takes effect September 1, requires all jurisdictions to count and report all untested kits and requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a plan to test every one of them.
On May 17, I had the opportunity to work and attend Joyful Heart’s 4th Annual Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As Joyful Heart’s Advocacy & Communications Associate, I was part of a team that informed attendees of one of Joyful Heart’s biggest advocacy efforts–ending the rape kit backlog–and helped them take action to do so. The night epitomized what’s so incredible about Joyful Heart’s supporters and why this work is so important.
In February, Women’s eNews ran a commentary by Wendy Murphy which argued that testing the backlog of rape kits– the evidence collected from victims’ bodies that is waiting to be tested in storage facilities across the United States–is a waste of resources and violates the privacy of victims.
Last month, former New York City chief sex crimes prosecutor, best-selling author and Joyful Heart board member Linda Fairstein wrote a brilliant rebuttal in response to Murphy’s piece published in The Daily Beast.
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.
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.