Since New York established its DNA Databank in 1996, law enforcement agencies from across the state have solved thousands of crimes—including more than 3,300 sexual assaults and 800 murders. After the state legislature expanded the Databank in 2006 to include certain misdemeanors, police solved 53 murders and 223 sexual assaults using DNA samples from petit larceny convictions alone.
The Databank currently captures offender DNA profiles for only 46% of crimes. Governor Cuomo has proposed expanding the Databank to include samples from offenders convicted of all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors. The Senate passed the proposal in January with overwhelming bipartisan support, but it is now stalled in the Assembly.
Expanding the Databank will solve and prevent crimes. It will allow more survivors of violent crimes to see their perpetrators brought to justice. Listen to the powerful story of Ann M., whose twelve-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted in their home. DNA evidence eventually led to the conviction of the attacker, but not until a decade later—when petit larceny became a qualifying offense for DNA collection.
Like Ann, too many survivors and their families wait years for justice and the healing it can bring. While they wait, their perpetrators remain free to commit other More >
The following post is a progress report from our GlobalGiving project to end the backlog of untested rape kits. To read this and our previous progress report, and to support this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/end-the-backlog-of-untested-rape-kits-us/.
We are happy to share with you that we have raised more than $5,500 through our GlobalGiving project to continue our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits and bring healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault.
We know that rape kit reform takes time—truly lasting change in the way our criminal justice system and we as a community respond to sexual violence will not come overnight. In our last GlobalGiving report, we gave you an introduction to our work in Detroit to end the city’s backlog of nearly 11,000 untested rape kits and support our collaborative partners through our Heal the Healers program.
Our commitment to end Detroit’s backlog of untested rape kits extends beyond supporting the wellness of police, social workers and prosecutors and today, we’d like to share another brief snapshot of what your funding is making possible.
With the goal of engaging and empowering survivors in the criminal justice system during rape kit reform, we are More >
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization by Congress this year. Since its enactment 17 years ago, VAWA has saved countless lives, protected families, given a voice to survivors and provided invaluable training to the criminal justice community. VAWA is both a symbol and actualization of what it means to create healing and justice for survivors and their communities.
VAWA has fostered coordinated responses to violence against women by bringing together the criminal justice system, social services agencies and private nonprofits that work with survivors. It is responsible for the creation of legal assistance programs for survivors and greater protections for immigrants experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. If passed, the reauthorization will provide for enhanced criminal justice responses to sexual assault, greater prevention of domestic violence homicides and engagement of young people in stopping dating violence before it starts.
Please take action today to ensure that Congress reauthorizes VAWA. Write or call your senators and urge them to become co-sponsors of this vital piece of legislation. You can send the message we drafted or write a letter in your own words, expressing how critical VAWA is in the movement to end violence against women and girls. Calling More >
Joyful Heart has been selected as one of 25 charities to compete for the chance to earn $1 million from Chase Community Giving’s American Giving Awards. With such an extraordinary gift, we could make a big difference for survivors of sexual assault. There is one day left to help us make a difference of $1 million.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals report a sexual assault to the police. After an assault, a survivor undergoes an invasive exam that lasts between four and six hours to collect DNA and forensic evidence, which then goes into a “rape kit.”
The federal government estimates that over 200,000 untested kits are currently sitting untouched in storage facilities nationwide. Each untested kit represents a missed opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor. Eliminating the backlog would send a powerful message to survivors that their cases matter and that the criminal justice system has not forgotten them.
Joyful Heart would use the $1 million award to continue and enhance its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. We plan to create replicable victim-centered best practices, which will foster trusting and open relationships between survivors and responders; to completely overhaul endthebacklog.org, the only site More >
In an op-ed published in the Boston Herald this week, Linda Fairstein responds to the “untrue and absurd” arguments of opponents of testing the backlog of rape kits in the United States. Fairstein is a best-selling novelist, the Vice-Chair of Joyful Heart’s Board of Directors and for more than 25 years, was the chief prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit.
The fact that there are estimated to be almost a quarter of a million untested rape evidence collection kits collecting dust in police department warehouses across this country remains a national embarrassment. The movement to eliminate this backlog and process the evidence for DNA testing to identify violent offenders is gaining supporters, although opposed by naysayers who are ignorant of the facts of what sexual assault survivors achieve in the criminal justice system when they are backed by the powerfully effective tool of a DNA identification.
From 1976 until 2002, I was the prosecutor in charge of the country’s pioneering Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and among the first lawyers to be introduced to the revolutionary science of genetic fingerprinting in 1986, three years before it was accepted by our courts. When the first data banks became operational More >