Millions To Clear Rape Kit Backlog Championed By ‘SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay: Closure For Sexual Assault Survivors

Millions earmarked to clear rape kit backlog.

Millions have been designated to clear the rape kit backlog. Now, coming to light are evidence kits whose numbers rank in the thousands – and those kits potentially have the power to provide law enforcement with the evidence they need to track down serial rapists. Just one problem – they’ve never been tested, and some lie abandoned and forgotten in dusty warehouses.

That’s why nearly $80 million has been designated to clear the rape kit backlog and provide sexual assault victims some sense of justice, reported NBC News.

Among those helping to fund the cause is Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has earmarked $38 million in forfeiture funds to clear the rape kit backlog. Vance termed the situation embarrassing, noting the concern that victims of sexual assault are not treated in the same way as survivors of other types of crimes.

“We have finally come together to solve one of our law enforcement community’s biggest embarrassments which is having treated sexual victims, particularly women, not as seriously as we have treated other kinds of crimes and victims.”

In addition, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed that the Department of Justice has designed $41 million to clear the rape kit backlog.

Millions of dollars earmarked to clear the rape kit backlog.

“The bottom line is simple—if we’re able to test these kits, more crimes could be solved and more women can live with the comfort of knowing her rapist will not return,” stated Biden.

Teaming up with the officials is Mariska Hargitay. The Law and Order actress heads the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is championing this cause of finding justice for sexual assault survivors.

When Hargitay began the role of Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU), she learned more about issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and her foundation’s Web site cites the statistics on such crimes.

Actress Mariska Hargitay champions the work of providing millions to clear the rape kit backlog.

“Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted,” says the site.

But they also provide information about the people behind the statistics. Mariska received letters revealing long-held stories of survivors.

“The letters didn’t say, ‘I love your show. Can you send me an autographed picture?’ They said, ‘I was raped when I was fifteen. I’m forty now and I’ve never told anyone.’ Survivors were disclosing their stories to her, many for the first time.”

Mariska responded to what she sensed in those letters was the desire to be recognized and supported with the founding of Joyful Heart in 2004. The organization focuses on guiding these survivors to find healing and joy.

Prosecutor Finds Thousands Of Untested, Abandoned Rape Kits

Awareness of the situation about the untested rape kits began five years ago. Kym Worthy, a Detroit prosecutor, found 10,000 kits apparently abandoned in a warehouse. Now, after testing, those rape kits uncovered links to cases in 39 states and 487 suspected serial rapists.

In one of those cases, a woman named Johnnie revealed how she felt about the fact that the person who raped her was not discovered for 13 years. Now, although Detroit has tested her own rape kit, she is perturbed about all those untested kits lying in other warehouses.

“Survivors Need Closure”

And Johnnie summed up her desire to see others find similar answers to their questions about the unsolved sexual assault crimes.

“It’s survivors out there that need closure,” urged Johnnie.

Lynch emphasized her desire to send a message to those who feel that they remain victims as a result of a sexual assault, putting action behind her words with the effort to provide millions to clear the rape kits backlog.

“For anyone who has felt isolated and afraid, left out and left behind as a result of a sexual crime, our message is clear: we will not forget you. We will not abandon you. You are not alone.”

Biden also discussed the significance of using time and millions of dollars to clear the rape kit backlog, reported MSN.

He estimates that once kits are tested, half of unsolved rape crimes move to the solved category, a number that’s particularly significant with regard to the large number of untested evidence kits across the nation.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images]