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Non-profit fights to have tens of thousands of backlogged rape kits tested

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jan 02, 2019

There are tens of thousands of sexual assault cases that not only go untold, but unsolved.

Joyful Heart Foundation is a non-profit fighting to get backlogged rape kits sitting on evidence shelves tested in order to clear more cases.

"No matter where they live and no matter what their zip code is, they have rights to have their kit tested,” says Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy at the foundation.

But why aren't they being tested in the first place?

“One of the biggest factors is rape is not prioritized as the violent crime that it is, Knecht says.

“So, unless somebody asks for that kit to be sent forward, such as a detective or prosecutor, it could sit there forever.”

Knecht says factors such as money and resources also play a role.

Reports show many of the cases are being suspended instead of closed, but that’s changing, slowly.

“Just had a big win in New York state,” says Knecht. “Gov. Cuomo just signed a bill, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, that allows survivors, among many other things, to know the status of their rape kit.”

During the 2017 legislative session, the Joyful Heart Foundation helped pass 17 bills in 15 states to push rape kit backlog testing.

It was a major step toward justice, and Knecht says they’re not done fighting.

“It's really important that every rape kit that has been sitting on the shelf for years is taken off the shelf and know that every single kit that is collected is tested in a timely manner,” she says.