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The Rape Kit Backlog

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The Rape Kit Backlog

Mackenzie Cappuccio

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One out of five women will be raped at some point in their lives; and one out of three women in the U.S. and one out of six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

Eight of ten cases of sexual assault, the victim knew their attacker. There are organizations that work diligently to help survivors, one is The Joyful Heart Foundation (JHF).

“The Joyful Heart Foundation is a leading national organization whose mission is to transform society’s response to sexual violence. One thing the foundation has is H-E-A-R-T. Heart is a victim centered organization whose work includes helping to enact legislation, both state and federal.”

President and CEO of the foundation Mariska Hargitay produced a documentary I AM EVIDENCE, which shined light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the entire country.

Hargitay stated that “there are 200,143 total untested rape kits that are sitting in abandoned warehouses/facilities.” Due to this there were 700 identified serial rapists just in one county, in one city, in one state.

Each kit sat in abandoned warehouses that had broken windows. Due to this evidence in some of the kits was ruined because of weather and birds being able to fly in and out.

“When we first found our kits, they weren’t cataloged, they weren’t computerized,” recalled Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “There were no police reports linked to the boxes we found. Nothing. We had to literally go through, one by one, and pull out any information we could.”

Victims of sexual assault tend to not come forward to report their rape. One reason being, victim blaming. Almost every time a rape victim comes forward they are blamed, they get asked “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?”

Enduring a rape kit is re-traumatizing to go through. So when a victim sees that nothing is going to be done for them and that their kit is just going to go in a box in storage they question if they should even go through with it.

According to NSVRC, healthcare is 16% higher for women who were sexually abused as children and 36% higher for women who were physically and sexually abused as children.

When a child is sexually abused, almost always it’s by someone the child trusts or trusted. Due to this children tend to not tell another adult for a long time and some don’t come forward until they are older because they are too young to realize what is happening to them is wrong.

New York’s legislation passed the Child Victims Act that went in effect February 19th, 2019. The law gives victims of childhood sexual assault until they are 55 to bring forth a case. Another thing the act does, is it gives any victim of child abuse/ assault a one year window to come forward no matter what their current age is, from the time the act took effect.

There are 6 pillars to the rape kit reform created by JHF. The first one is Annual statewide inventory of untested kits. The second pillar is mandatory testing of backlogged kits. The third is mandatory testing of new kits. The fourth pillar is statewide tracking system, which makes sure labs, hospitals, and law enforcement are all using the same system. The fifth is Victims’ rights to notice, and lastly the sixth pillar is funding for reform.

 

Another reason victims don’t come forward is because they feel their voice is going to fall on deaf ears. That they don’t matter, but that’s where they are wrong they aren’t just victims they are survivors. At anytime a survivor can call the sexual assault hotline at 800.656.HOPE, which is on standby 24/7. They will immediately get you the help you need.  

A way you can help is by reaching out to state and federal elected officials to inform them on what is going on and how we can stop it. Say NO MORE and help survivors get the justice they need.  

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