Former Vice President Joe Biden understands the importance of testing every single rape kit around the country.
“An untested rape kit means a survivor without justice,” Biden wrote in a Saturday tweet.
“I wrote the first rape kit backlog law because every survivor deserves closure, and because evidence shows testing kits can identify men who have committed multiple rapes ― and might again,” he continued. “Test every kit. Every single one.”
Rape kits are the primary tool used in sexual assault cases to collect physical evidence left on a survivor’s body. When that evidence is tested for DNA, it may be used to prosecute a perpetrator. But a rape kit is essentially useless if the evidence is not tested for DNA. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of kits sit untested in law enforcement facilities across the U.S. due to a lack of funding and other resources.
The rape kit backlog has made national news in the last decade and many states have begun reporting their inventories of untested kits. According to End The Backlog, a program created by the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation, at least 225,000 untested rape kits has been discovered in that time. The three states with the highest numbers of reported untested rape kits are Florida (13,435), California (13,615) and North Carolina (15,160).
“To me, the backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society,” actress Mariska Hargitay said in a 2018 HBO documentary about the rape kit backlog titled “I Am Evidence.”
“Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your case matters,” added Hargitay, one of two producers of the documentary and star of the long-running series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Biden, who was widely criticized for how he handled professor Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, has long advocated for women’s rights. He drafted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and launched the anti-sexual violence organization It’s On Us with President Barack Obama in 2014.
“If we tested every rape kit, based on statical analysis, we could probably — just by doing that and matching them to existing DNA database — solve 50 percent of the rapes that are now unsolved,” Biden said in a 2015 press conference about the issue.
“Testing rape kits should be an absolute priority for the United States of America,” he added then. “It works, it matters, it brings closure, it brings justice.”
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect that Hargitay is one of two producers of the documentary “I Am Evidence,” not a co-producer.