From the Joyful Heart Foundation
Charles Courtney, Jr., was arrested in Franklin County, Indiana in September 1996, for the knifepoint rape of his wife, Mary Jane, when she told him she wanted a divorce the night he returned from a trip on his job as a long-distance truck driver. Like defendants in many domestic violence cases, Courtney was offered a plea to a lesser charge of sexual battery. As such, his two-year sentence was far lighter than it would have been had he raped a stranger–a sad truth about many rapists whose victims are partners or acquaintances. That conviction earned the government the right to put Courtney’s genetic profile in the FBI’s convicted-offender databank. He was released from prison on January 4, 1998.
Three months later, a 21-year-old woman named Amberly Lakes was kidnapped in a parking lot outside a grocery store in Fairfield, Ohio, and taken to a remote location where her unknown assailant raped her repeatedly at knifepoint. In 2001, Lakes’ case was solved when the evidence preserved during her medical exam after the attack yielded DNA that matched Charles Courtney’s profile. Even though her evidence kit had More >
As many of you have heard, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced this week that they have ended their “historic” rape kit backlog of 6,132 kits, resulting in at least 300 new arrests. This is a significant milestone in the work to reform rape kit testing in Los Angeles city.
For the past three years, advocates in Los Angeles and nationally have worked together to end the LAPD’s rape kit backlog, and the news this week that the historic backlog has been tested is an accomplishment that sets up Los Angeles to be considered a model for the rest of the country.
Joyful Heart is pleased to have played a part in this reform along with a number of local and national organizations including Peace Over Violence, the UCLA-Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center and Human Rights Watch. Last year, we placed calls and wrote letters to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to encourage them to find the resources necessary to outsource all of the testing of the historic backlog, increase crime lab staff, and better track rape kit testing results. When Law & Order: SVU featured the rape kit backlog in the third episode of its twelfth More >
My name is Maile Zambuto and I am the Executive Director of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Joyful Heart’s mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and the shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
One of the issues we have been working on in recent years – in collaboration with an incredible array of advocates and public officials – is the elimination of the backlog of untested rape kits in the United States. Experts in the federal government, including the US Department of Justice and members of Congress, estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in police and crime lab storage facilities throughout the country.
In an effort to bring increased public attention to this problem, Joyful Heart launched Endthebacklog.org. The site is intended to offer a comprehensive view of the current state of the backlog and the various efforts underway to address it.
The rape kit backlog presents a significant barrier to justice. But it is just one way we need to improve our community response to sexual violence.
When a person is abused in anyway, it is often difficult to disclose. Victims may be concerned that they More >