Today in Sex: Law & Order SVU Helps Rape Survivors Get Justice"/>
All of the Law & Order franchises are known for ripping their stories "straight from the headlines." This may not always be the most sensitive method of story telling, and the show has come under fire for it. I mean, imagine hanging around at home, relaxing with a cold beer and a little telly, only to stumble across a story based on your family's murder on prime time. Not fun. But tonight on Law & Order SVU, Detective Olivia Benson (played by Jane Mansfield's daughter, Mariska Hargitay), turns activist as the show dramatizes the very real, horrifying consequences of the giant backlog of untested rape kits in our country.
In an article penned for Good Housekeeping, Hargitay explains,
New York City's arrest rate for rape rose from 40 percent to 70 percent once it adopted the policy to test every booked rape kit. In Los Angeles, a recent decision to test every booked rape kit uncovered DNA evidence from suspects in additional rape cases. Testing every kit, and giving law enforcement the resources they need to investigate sexual assaults fully, makes a dramatic difference in victims' livesand public safety.
The reasons for not testing rape kits vary from budgetary, to "why bother if we've caught him," to a culture that too often still doesn't take rape seriously. Regardless of the why, this is completely unacceptable. Even if you've caught the rapist, having his DNA on file means you might be able to close other open cases. Believe me, there's nothing that brings peace of mind to a victim of a violent crime like knowing the guy who did her harm is locked up. Even if the punishment isn't for "her" crime.
According to a story on ABC News, "Without forensic evidence, juries question the case, they question the prosecution, even though it may exist. Juries never understand [in cases] where a rape kit has been performed, why it's not in the courtroom," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. More tests will cost more money, he said, "but so what."
In tandem with the show, Hargitay's organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, is launching an initiative called End the Backlog, which hopes make it mandatory for states to test the estimated hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting around gathering dust. Go, Olivia!