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 >
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 >
On October 27th, as part of a White House event to Commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the federal government was increasing its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in the United States by funding pilot projects throughout the country to help jurisdictions eliminate their rape kit backlog.
It was an important moment, and I was lucky to get to be a part of it, sitting in the East Room of the White House as Vice President Biden made the announcement. Sitting three rows from the Vice President and President Barack Obama, who both made remarks, I was full of gratitude for an administration that is deeply committed to ending violence against women and girls.
Listening to the President and Vice President, I was filled with gratitude for how this administration is using its power to address sexual and domestic violence, and to shed light into the darkness of these issues. As Mariska Hargitay, Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation, More >
We’re continuing our features of stories from survivors of rape and sexual assault who have been affected by the backlog of untested rape kits. Today, Michelle share’s her story. We thank her and want honor her courage in sharing what she has experienced.
I wanted to share my story, to help add a sense of reality of the impact of the backlog on rape victims.
I was raped in 1984 by two men during a home invasion in Boston. They had a knife; I was blindfolded, raped repeatedly by both of them, tied up with a phone cord, gagged, and eventually left alive, much to my surprise. Perhaps it was the blindfold that saved my life. As I begged the men not to kill me, one of them said, “We don’t kill people. We just need the money. We’ve been doing this for seven years.” They were unafraid and unapologetic. They told me their first names; they did not wear gloves.
They left fingerprints all over the apartment, and I submitted to a rape kit thinking that this would help catch the men who did this.
The police interviewed me once. I called about a month after the attack and was asked by the 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 >