A new public service announcement is shining a much-needed light on the thousands of rape kits that go untested every year in the U.S.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, which created the PSA, estimates that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in law enforcement facilities around the country due to the lack of resources and funding. “Shelved” lays out in 60 seconds the far-reaching impacts of this backlog.
“Behind every kit is a person — a sexual assault survivor — waiting for justice,” the nonprofit foundation said in a press release.
A rape kit is used to collect physical evidence left on the victim’s body. When that evidence is tested for DNA, it can be used to prosecute the attacker and, in some cases, to identify serial predators. But an untested rape kit does nobody any good.
“At its core, the rape kit backlog is about survivors,” Joyful Heart’s managing director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, said in the press release. “When a person is sexually assaulted and chooses to undergo the invasive four-to-six hour evidence collection examination at the hospital, they expect the kit will be tested and the evidence used to prosecute the attacker. The public expects the same.”
End the Backlog, a Joyful Heart initiative in partnership with the Accountability Project, has pushed for legislation and resources to test those untested rape kits. As of September 2017, the initiative claims its efforts have led to the identification of almost 1,300 suspected serial rapists.
“Rape kit testing sends a message to survivors that they ― and their cases ― matter,” says the End the Backlog website. “It sends a message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable for their crimes. It also demonstrates a commitment to survivors to do everything possible to bring healing and justice.”