In 1999, New York City discovered 17,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits, commonly referred to as rape kits, in its storage facilities. The City analyzed all of these kits, investigated DNA hits and prosecuted offenders—taking dangerous criminals off the streets and bringing justice to survivors.
On September 10, District Attorney of New York Cy Vance announced that his office is assisting communities across the country by awarding $38 million to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states to eliminate their sexual assault kit backlogs. These grants will provide for the analysis of estimated 56,475 rape kits.
Additionally, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) $41 million investment to address, study and clear rape kit backlogs across the country.
Together the two programs will pay for testing for more than 70,000 rape kits.
To read DANY’s official press release, click here, to read BJA’s official press release, click here and to read Joyful Heart’s official press release, click here. To watch the press conference, click here.
Joyful Heart is proud to serve as a technical advisor to the DANY for the administration of this grant program.
“At long last—yes, after too much time, but at long last—survivors can hear the message: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your cases matter. And testing communicates to criminals that they are no longer able to offend with impunity.”
– Mariska Hargitay at the funding announcement press conference
ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national non-profit organization founded by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay with the mission to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
ENDTHEBACKLOG, the cornerstone of Joyful Heart’s Policy & Advocacy work, focuses on shining a light on the rape kit backlog in 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. Ultimately, we seek to change attitudes about sexual violence and abuse, educate the public, improve systems to lessen the trauma survivors experience and ensure greater access to justice for survivors.
Backed by staff members who are national experts on the rape kit backlog and board members who themselves have successfully eliminated backlogs in their communities, Joyful Heart works to identify jurisdictions with rape kit backlogs and to assist them with developing and implementing survivor-centered reforms. As they move forward with clearing their backlogs, we provide guidance and expertise on best practices, such as how to re-engage survivors whose kits went untested for years or even decades, a process called victim notification. Through our ongoing research, we make information available on where the backlog exists and how jurisdictions have improved their rape kit testing policies. We work to ensure that survivors and their experiences are at the center of all reforms.
Sorenson Forensics is a leading provider of advanced forensic casework and DNA testing services to federal, state and local crime laboratories. We also assist officers of the court in individual criminal cases and offer comprehensive forensic DNA services to private-industry clients. Contact us to see what we can do for you, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @ForensicLabPros on Twitter.