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 >
Many of us are aware of the personal costs of sexual violence. We may have seen friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues navigate their lives in the in the aftermath of sexual assault or abuse. Maybe a roommate had a lock put on her bedroom door in order to manage her fear, a co-worker may have become distracted at work and seemed depressed after a “bad date” or someone in our own family may stop attending family events to avoid his perpetrator. People that experience this type of abuse suffer in varied and disparate ways, but there is a commonality in that harm is done and the personal costs are steep.
A new document produced and distributed by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence outlines some other costs of sexual violence. The document addresses the economic, health care and systems costs associated with sexual violence. It notes that:
- Each rape costs approximately $151,423;
- In 2008, violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5% of all health care costs, or up to $750 billion total;
- Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims, with total estimated costs at $127 billion a year (excluding the cost of child sexual abuse);
- Sexual abuse interferes with women’s More >
Our efforts to end the backlog of untested rape kits, the collection of evidence from victims’ bodies that wait to be tested in police and crime lab storage facilities throughout the country, are part of a larger movement to change the response to sexual violence in the United States–one that recognizes the importance of justice and healing and one that demonstrates to survivors that each and every one of their experiences and cases is important.
April 1 marked the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM for our Twitter followers). You can read a message from Joyful Heart’s Executive Director, Maile Zambuto, on the Joyful Heart Blog here and read more about it it on our website.
At the beginning of every week here on the Backlog Blog, we are going to be sharing with you some statistics about the nature of sexual violence and the response to sexual violence. We start today with some commonly cited numbers many of you might already have seen.
From news sources national to local to campus-based, the backlog has been receiving a lot of coverage lately. A couple weeks ago, a Georgia high school student named Brittany emailed Joyful Heart to ask for an interview with Sarah Tofte, JHF’s Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, for an article she was writing for her school newspaper, The Pitchfork.
Whether they are just embarking on their journalistic pursuits or they are award-winning veterans in the field, journalists are crucial to our efforts to end the backlog. Because only one state (Illinois) requires jurisdictions to track their rape kits at the moment, a lot of investigative work must, and has, been done by the media to uncover the nature of backlogs. One of the most important steps in creating a movement–a revolution, even–is raising awareness. Writing articles is a great way to do this, and there are so many resources that can help.
Brittany was kind enough to send along her completed article published in The Pitchfork’s February 18 issue for us to post here on our blog. We thought we’d share it with you.
Can you describe what happened? Did you get a good look? Could you give us a description? These are the hounding questions More >
In 2010, the Joyful Heart Foundation‘s second issue of Reunion featured a story of a young girl whose big voice is matched only by her bigger heart. Ella Burnside was given an assignment from her English teacher: write about something in the world you want to change, and then do it. Ella wrote about ending sexual violence and domestic abuse, and then went about raising over $10,000 for Joyful Heart. She was in tenth grade.
This school year, Ella attended a youth government conference in her home state of Kentucky. There, she and several of her classmates presented a bill to the mock legislature calling for the elimination of Kentucky’s backlog of untested rape kits and proposing a timeline to get the kits tested. Several news sources, including CBS and WLKY, have reported on the state crime lab’s backlog of hundreds of kits.
As Ella reported to us, her bill sailed through the mock House and Senate, with approximately 95% of her peers voting for it. “I am confident that they truly understood the importance of eliminating KY’s backlog and that many of them were immensely More >