Armen Keteyian and Laura Strickler’s five month investigation into untested rape kits nationwide uncovering 20,000 untested rape kits in various cities won the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, as well as the 2010 Gracie Award for Best Investigative Program.
Sarah Tofte: How did you get interested in journalism as a career?
Laura Strickler: In 2003, I was working on a masters in public administration, but I dropped out, and started doing a documentary film program and was completely taken with it. It was much more interesting than statistics.
Long story short, I started in public radio, and joined the CBS News investigative unit in 2006.
ST: How did you get interested in the story of the rape kit backlog?
LS: My colleague had just finished a brilliant story that looked at veteran suicides across the country, and it was a large data project that required my colleague to call every single state’s coroner’s office to figure out how many veterans’ deaths were classified as suicides. It was a very significant story since it was at the beginning of the national discussion about what could be done to More >
Late in November, I interviewed Sgt. Liz Donegan of the Austin Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit about her groups’ response to sexual violence, their new campaign, “We Believe,” as well as Austin’s elimination of its rape kit backlog.
Sarah Tofte: How did you decide to become a police officer?
Sgt. Liz Donegan: I have always wanted to be a police officer, every since I was a little girl. I have four sisters and all of them will tell you that’s all I ever talked about when I was younger. It sounds cliche, but I really wanted to help people and I thought being a cop was an exciting way to do that. It took me a while to get around to becoming a police officer. I had served in the Army after leaving college. When my tour was up, I moved to Texas and began working at the Sheriff’s Department. I worked as a corrections officer and then was hired on with the Austin Police Department. I did not have any reservations about working within policing, as I had worked in many male dominated fields previously. I believed if I worked hard and it showed in More >
Two weeks ago, I posted about Vice President Biden’s announcement of new initiatives from the federal government to improve the response to sexual and domestic violence. This week, I spoke with Kristina Rose, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), to discuss NIJ’s new sexual assault kit action research project.
Sarah Tofte: Tell me a bit about your background and how you got interested in issues around rape kit reform.
Kristina Rose: I have been working for about 25 years on crime and criminal justice issues. In the 1980’s, I was lucky enough to serve on a county crime victim board that addressed crime victims’ concerns, and that is where I got my first introduction to violence against women issues. Hearing crime victims tell their stories, especially around domestic violence and sexual assault, really moved me.
When I worked at the Office on Violence Against Women I had a great boss who supported the projects I felt most strongly about, which included sexual violence issues. I became very interested in best practices for treating victims of sexual assault, especially involving the forensic examination. We developed a virtual training DVD with Dartmouth Medical School and as part of that project, I produced More >
One of our hopes for endthebacklog.org and the Backlog Blog is to share stories of how individuals and organizations are working to eliminate backlogs once they’ve been uncovered. The hope is that other jurisdictions can learn from their successes and challenges, and that together we can develop strategies to ensure justice and healing for survivors of sexual violence. Earlier this week, I chatted with LA Police Chief Charlie Beck about his department’s efforts to resolve their backlog of untested rape kits.
Sarah Tofte: How did you discover that Los Angeles had a backlog of untested rape kits?
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck: We always knew that we had a backlog of untested rape kits—I mean, we knew that when we collected kits from victims, that some of them were sent to the crime lab and some were not. Around three years ago, we decided to consider any kit collected from a victim and not tested as a kit that was part of the backlog. So, under the direction of then-Chief Bratton, we went into our evidence storage facilities to count the kits. We knew how many kits were waiting for testing at our crime labs, but we had no idea how many More >