From the Joyful Heart Foundation
We just received the incredible news from Texas that Governor Rick Perry has signed a bill into law that makes Texas the second state in the country, after Illinois, to pass significant rape kit reform. The new law, which takes effect September 1, requires all jurisdictions to count and report all untested kits and requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a plan to test every one of them.
Having this legislation passed in Texas represents an enormous milestone in the movement to end the backlog of untested rape kits. A groundswell for reform is happening. We hope that in the coming year, state legislators from around the country will be inspired by the work of their counterparts in Texas and Illinois. Texas has shown that it is possible to enact rape kit reform, giving survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones the opportunity for healing and justice that rape kit testing brings.
You can read more of our coverage of this process here on the Backlog Blog and our op-ed from last month urging the passage of the bill in the Houston Chronicle. We will keep you updated as there is more news about this historic event.More >
On May 17, I had the opportunity to work and attend Joyful Heart’s 4th Annual Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As Joyful Heart’s Advocacy & Communications Associate, I was part of a team that informed attendees of one of Joyful Heart’s biggest advocacy efforts–ending the rape kit backlog–and helped them take action to do so. The night epitomized what’s so incredible about Joyful Heart’s supporters and why this work is so important.
As most events do, ours had a theme, How Will You Join? (The Joyful Revolution). In 2009, at Joyful Heart’s second Gala, the Joyful Revolution was born: a movement of our collective vision for a community that collaboratively ends the cycle of violence and abuse by turning toward the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. At last year’s Gala, the Revolution Continued as we honored the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which changed the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented.
At this year’s Gala, we asked the question How Will You Join? And it was answered in amazing ways throughout the night.
We started off with a letter writing campaign to members of More >
On Friday, April 8, the US Department of Justice announced the two recipients of an action research grant targeting untested rape kits. Houston, Texas and Wayne County, Michigan will be receiving $176,000 and $200,000, respectively to, “identify underlying reasons why sexual assault kit evidence is not tested and to develop practices to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault.”
The funding, administered by the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the US Department of Justice, is the first of a two phase project. According to the press release:
In Phase I, for which this FY 2010 funding was awarded, researchers will team up with representatives from the police department, crime lab, prosecutor’s office and community-based victim services organizations in Wayne County and Houston. The teams will develop a strategy to tackle their problems, with special emphasis on how and when to notify victims when their SAK (which may be years old) is going to be tested.
In Phase II of the project, NIJ seeks to provide additional funds to help the two jurisdictions implement their strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. NIJ anticipates that these two projects will produce transportable lessons and strategies for other jurisdictions experiencing similar problems.
Joyful Heart is thrilled More >
In February, Women’s eNews ran a commentary by Wendy Murphy which argued that testing the backlog of rape kits– the evidence collected from victims’ bodies that is waiting to be tested in storage facilities across the United States–is a waste of resources and violates the privacy of victims.
Last month, former New York City chief sex crimes prosecutor, best-selling author and Joyful Heart board member Linda Fairstein wrote a brilliant rebuttal in response to Murphy’s piece published in The Daily Beast (a longer version was published on the Backlog Blog). Sarah Tofte pointed to Linda’s article as necessary reading on testing the rape kit backlog and offered some thoughts on Wendy’s article in an opinion piece that was featured on Women’s eNews this week.
Follow the link below to read it.
Joyful Heart was proud to sponsor the Lydia Martinez Celebration of Excellence, hosted by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault (NYCAASA) on Monday.
The Lydia Martinez Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration Awards were presented to five recipients in honor of the late First Grade Detective C. Lydia Martinez, a remarkable Special Victims Detective in New York City. I had the privilege of meeting Lydia and the strength, compassion and light that emanated from her were incredible. On Monday, her colleagues and friends, many of whom filled the room in which we were sitting, spoke about the indelible effect she had on their lives, the lives of the survivors she served and on the city’s collective response to sexual assault by law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates and medical personnel.
We were there on Monday to remember her legacy and celebrate work of those who follow in her footsteps: volunteer advocate Maegan Corcoran, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner and Coordinator Glenda Guzman, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Violence Intervention and Treatment Program Coordinator Deesha More >