Joyful Heart Releases New Data on Rape Kit Backlogs in Five U.S. Cities

Prepares to Testify before U.S. Senate Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2015
CONTACT: Melissa Schwartz, media@joyfulheartfoundation.org

NEW YORK – As part of its ongoing effort to identify the number of untested rape kits across the United States, the Joyful Heart Foundation today released information obtained from the following cities:

Charlotte, North Carolina (1,019 kits)

Jacksonville, Florida (1,943 kits)

Kansas City, Missouri (1,324 kits)

Portland, Oregon (1,931 kits)

San Diego, California (2,873 kits)

The data, obtained through public records requests, show that thousands of rape kits remain untested in police storage facilities across the country. 

“We commend these cities for sharing their data with us and hope they will take aggressive and comprehensive steps toward rape kit reform,” said Ilse Knecht, Senior Advisor for Policy & Advocacy. “Joyful Heart stands ready to provide assistance to these and other communities working to address their untested kit backlogs.”

The release of the data announced today is part of The Accountability Project, an initiative of Joyful Heart’s ENDTHEBACKLOG program to uncover the extent of the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. Through a pro bono partnership with Goodwin Procter LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, the initiative uses public records requests to ascertain the number of untested kits at police departments around the country.  

Few states and no federal agencies require that law enforcement track or count the untested rape kits in their storage facilities. The Accountability Project seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability around rape kit testing practices nationwide.  

Joyful Heart Managing Director Sarah Haacke Byrd will testify tomorrow on the need for a continued national response to the rape kit backlog at the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution’s hearing, “Taking Sexual Assault Seriously: The Rape Kit Backlog and Human Rights.” For more information or to watch live online, go to: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/taking-sexual-assault-seriously-the-rape-kit-backlog-and-human-rights

“Focusing a national effort on comprehensive rape kit reform demonstrates a commitment to survivors that we will do everything possible to bring healing and justice,” added Maile M. Zambuto, Joyful Heart’s Chief Executive Officer. “Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters.”

Joyful Heart has been at the forefront of efforts to provide funding and resources to jurisdictions that are struggling to comprehensively address their backlogs and implement reform. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is currently reviewing proposals for its $41 million community response program. An additional $41 million in federal funding is pending for fiscal year 2016. In November, the Office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. also announced a new $35 million grant program to allow jurisdictions across the country to test previously unanalyzed rape kits. Proposals for funding from the DA’s office are due on June 1, 2015 by 5:00pm ET. 

To learn more about The Accountability Project’s progress, and to see available data and public records responses, visit: ENDTHEBACKLOG.ORG.

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. 

ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.

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END THE BACKLOG is a JOYFUL HEART FOUNDATION initiative and a proud supporter of