Mariska Hargitay, long time star of Law & Order, has announced that she will produce a documentary on the common existence of large backlogs of untested rape kits in american police system, with all proceeds going to The Joyful Heart Foundation.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a spotty history with the presentation of sexual assault victims, but I can’t find fault in an effort to raise awareness around the issue of untested rape kits. Since 2009, the Violence Against Women Act has required state governments to provide funds for rape victims to have their rape kits tested for their assailant’s DNA, even if they wish to remain anonymous. Such tests, processed properly, can create a body of evidence capable of making huge strides in the identification and prosecution of rapists, particularly serial rapists.Unfortunately, studies have shown that in many jurisdictions, thousands of kits can sit in police custody without being sent to a crime lab, for years. A 2011 report from the National Institute of Justice found that “18 percent of unsolved alleged sexual assaults that occurred from 2002 to 2007 contained forensic evidence that was still in police custody (not submitted to a crime lab for analysis)” nationwide.
Production on Shelved, Hargitay’s documentary, will begin in Detroit, where eleven thousand untested rape kits sit in the city’s possession. Over the past three years the Joyful Heart Foundation, of which she is a founder, has worked with the city to shrink their backlog. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 1,600 kits they have managed to test have lead to the identification of “87 serial rapists and crimes in 19 states.”
I also find the backlog to be the starkest example of how we regard the issue of sexual violence in [the U.S.]: something that belongs tucked away on a shelf. That attitude — and the violence — has to end, and I hope this film will open people’s eyes to the value of investing in change.
Maile Zambuto, CEO of Joyful Heart, is also producing, along with Trish Adlesic, and veteran television documentarian Marc Levin will direct.
(via The Hollywood Reporter. top pic via FayesVision/WENN.com.)