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HBO Documentary Shines a Light on the Nation’s Troubling Trend of Untested Rape Kits


On Law and Order: SVU, detective Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) is a member of an elite squad who has helped victims of sexual assault get justice from their attackers for nearly two decades. In the upcoming HBO documentary I Am Evidence, Hargitay explores the real life fight for police to examine the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country. The documentary's focus is especially relevant as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States — and draws renewed attention to the state of affairs in Louisiana. 

 

The trailer for the film was shared earlier this week with People Magazine (watch the exclusive clip here). I Am Evidence, directed by Oscar-nominated Trish Adlesic and Emmy-winning Geeta Gandbhir and featuring Hargitay both onscreen and as producer, is scheduled to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month before receiving a widespread release later this year. The documentary highlights the efforts of End the Backlog, a nonprofit program of Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation

 

In recent weeks in New Orleans, awareness has been brought to the ways that the city still needs to improve its response to victims of sexual assault. As watch dog group Court Watch NOLA reported on April 11, New Orleans prosecutors arrested and jailed a rape victim for eight days in order to compile their court testimony. Just last month, a former student at Dillard University filed a complaint against the school for negligence following an assault perpetrated by a fellow student who had previous raped another student on campus.

 

This is troubling news, especially in light of the fact that over 1,000 untested rape kits are in Louisiana as NoDef reported in 2015. According to End the Backlog, approximately 1,133 untested rape kits lie in police evidence rooms across the state. 

 

At the state level there is progress, with legislators making major efforts in recent years to address the problem. In 2014, Louisiana Senator Jean-Paul Morrell implemented a law requiring crime labs to conduct annual audits of rape kits — a law that led to the discovery of quadruple digit neglected rape kits in the state. In 2016, the NOPD received $653,395 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to test the backlog of rape kits and prosecute cases. This year, Representative Helena Moreno introduced a resolution that would assist the State Police Crime Lab with improving the statewide tracking system for rape kits. 

 

Learn more about the efforts to end the backlog in Louisiana here




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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

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Michael Weber, B.A.

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Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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