Mariska Hargitay, who is outspoken about causes relating to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, addressed Capitol Hill recently about the the national rape kit backlog.
The “Law and Order: SVU” star testified before the new Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence on June 16 about the fact that a significant number of sexual assault evidence kits, colloquially known as rape kits, go untested by police departments and crime labs. Each kit contains DNA evidence collected from the body of a victim of sexual assault, and so the backlog means that crimes aren’t being prosecuted.
“These are not kits sitting on a shelf — these are people’s lives sitting on a shelf,” Hargitay said during her testimony. “And we have been letting perpetrators go by not testing these kits and saying we don’t care about this issue. This is about a revolution. This is about facing these issues head on.”
The actress pointed out that only eight states currently have laws to require testing in both current and backlogged kits.
“That means in most states, the decision to send kits for testing is left up to the discretion of an individual,” she said. “We must reverse that trend to ensure that every kit connected to a reported case is tested.”
She continued, “The numbers don’t lie — testing all kits solves crimes and saves lives. A survivor’s legislative district should not determine the outcome of their case or their right to information.”
Hargitay is the founder and president of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which seeks to empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. The group’s initiative, End the Backlog, is focused on eliminating the kit backlog.
You can watch her testimony in the video below.
This morning the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, co-chaired by Congresswoman Annie Kuster, Congressman Patrick Meehan, Rep. Dave Joyce, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, will be joined by Mariska Hargitay founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation and Lavinia Masters, Michael C. O’Malley, Richard A. Bell, Dr. Jenifer Markowitz, and Nathan James to discuss the need to reduce the Rape Kit Backlog and increase access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
Posted by Congresswoman Annie Kuster on Friday, June 16, 2017