Mariska Hargitay, American actress and humanitarian, has taken her role as Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” to the next level. The NBC hit prime time television drama, which focuses on violent crimes against women and children, inspired Hargitay’s charity work in her personal life when she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization established in 2004 to provide support to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and his/her body is part of the crime scene. An extensive process, taking 4-6 hours to complete and known as a “rape kit”, then occurs at a hospital or rape crisis center, where the victim’s body is examined and swabbed for evidence that could implicate the sexual offender and lead to a possible conviction. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are stored untested at police and crime storage facilities across the United States.
End The Backlog is a part of the Joyful Heart Foundation’s initiative to end the injustice of untested rape kits, and its efforts have not gone unnoticed. President Obama’s FY15 budget includes $35 million to aid local efforts to address rape kit backlogs. Sarah Tofte, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation, said, “President Obama’s budget allocation will provide cities across the country with the vital resources they need to put an end to the rape kit backlog and provide greater access to justice and healing for survivors. In our work with mayors, police and prosecutors around the nation, we find public officials committed to this work yet struggling to find the resources to enact the comprehensive reform they want and need. This funding provides the way forward they have been searching for.”
This is an incredible step for the victims of sexual violence that suffer injustices on so many levels, and we hope that this may be the start of many future healings.
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