On November 12, actress Mariska Hargitay spoke at a press conference held by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Vance announced that he will be offering up to $35 million for a nationwide campaign to end rape kit backlogs. Untested rape kits have become a problem recently especially for municipalities that have been undergoing financial trouble. According to reports, Memphis has a backlog of 11,000 untested rape kits while Las Vegas estimates their backlog to be at around 4000.
Hargitay attended the press conference on behalf of the Joyful Heart Foundation where she serves as president. The group is an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault and they are leading the charge against rape kit backlogs. “I remember first hearing about the backlog and I remember I was so deeply shocked and offended and outraged and dismayed,” Hargitay said during the press conference. She added, “The rape kit backlog sends two terrible messages. To victims, it says: ‘you don’t matter. What happened to you doesn’t matter.”
— GovExec State&Local (@statelocal) November 13, 2014
The money which will be used in the initiative will be doled out as grants, and various municipalities will be able to apply at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for funding in order to test the rape kits. Each rape kit test is estimated to cost around $500 to $1000. The $35 million which will be devoted in the initiative was acquired through asset forfeiture. French bank BNP Paribas was required to pay the government when they admitted to violating sanctions by moving money from Sudanese, Iranian, and Cuban clients through New York.
Mariska Hargitay is known for her role in the police procedural Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, a show that follows a group of fictional cops who investigate rape and other sex crimes. She plays the role of Det. Olivia Benson.
— Mariska Hargitay (@Mariska) October 22, 2014