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 >
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 >
The season championship game on October 30th, between the Bronx Gridlock and the Queens of Pain began with an awareness effort for www.endthebacklog.org. Joyful Heart’s communications and advocacy teams worked in collaboration with the members of the league’s community outreach committee by providing the two competing teams with t-shirts, which displayed the website address for www.endthebacklog.org, to wear during warm-ups before the final match. Tip cards, which provide detailed information about what the rape kit backlog is and offers resources to survivors, were also included in the bout program for the 2000 fans arriving to support their favorite team.
GGRD was 100% behind the idea of wearing the shirts and promoting the website when I first introduced it to them. As a member of this group of 60+ women, I bear witness to the tremendous strength and confidence each skater possesses, both on and off the track on a regular basis. The unfortunate reality, however, is that there are survivors of sexual violence among us, which is cause enough for us More >