The Joyful Heart Foundation has announced a partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office as part of a $35 million initiative to help jurisdictions nationwide address the backlog of untested rape kits in their police storage facilities.
The foundation will provide technical assistance and strategic guidance for the program, which will provide funding for auditing the scope of the backlogs, testing previously unanalyzed kits for DNA evidence, and adapting and sharing best practices for rape kit reform. The initiative is the single largest financial commitment to date in support of ending the backlog of untested rape kits, which can identify unknown offenders, corroborate a survivor's account of the attack, connect crime scenes across jurisdictions to identify serial offenders, and exonerate innocent suspects. According to Joyful Heart, many cities have not counted the untested kits in their custody; others have acknowledged backlogs but have not addressed the problem; and still others are committed to eliminating their backlog but lack the necessary resources to do so.
"To have hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested is unacceptable," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance. "Rape victims nationwide deserve to know that the invasive examination they underwent had a purpose, and the resulting kit was not left to gather dust on a forgotten shelf. But more than that, DNA evidence, consistently prosecutors' most reliable and cost-effective tool, solves crimes across state lines."
"For years, cities committed to comprehensive rape kit reform have been searching for the resources necessary to test their rape kits," said Sarah Tofte, vice president of policy and advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. "This new grant initiative provides them with the help they need. With this money, thousands of rape kits will be tested — and thousands of survivors will have a fighting chance of seeing perpetrators of rape brought to justice."