When Mariska Hargitay began the role of Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit, the content of the scripts, as well as the work she did to prepare for the role, opened her eyes to the staggering statistics about sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse in the United States.
Her response was The Joyful Heart Association which the actress found in Kona in 2004 to help sexual assault survivors heal.
According to The Joyful Heart Association, whose mission is to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse,” one of the biggest barriers in getting justice for survivors is decades worth of untested rape kits.
In the aftermath of a sexual assault, a victim who chooses to undergo an exhaustive and invasive forensic evidence collection examination—often referred to as a rape kit—expects the kit will be tested and the evidence used to prosecute the attacker.
However, that seems to be far from the truth as there is a backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits, sitting on shelves in warehouses for months, years, even decades while perpetrators remain free to commit other sexual assaults.
“Before #metoo, before Time’s Up, there was the backlog. Some of these kits are decades old. Because they are biological evidence, eventually they rot and become worthless which means some victims have no chance at justice,” Rachel Howald, founder of new agency Invisible Man, told Reel Chicago.
“End the Backlog,” a Joyful Heart initiative in partnership with the Accountability Project, has pushed for legislation and resources to test those untested rape kits. According to a statement, as of September 2017, the initiative claims its efforts have led to the identification of almost 1,300 suspected serial rapists.
Last week, the organization took it a step further by releasing a heart-wrenching, yet thought-provoking :60-second PSA from Invisible Man.
Directed by three-time Sundance winner, Emmy and Academy Award nominated filmmaker and cinematographer, Ellen Kuras, who is best known for her work on the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and recent directing work on the Netflix series Ozark, the new PSA shines much-needed light on the rape kit backlog and encourages legislative reforms to improve the handling of the kits, to eliminate the backlog, and to ensure it never happens again.
“We were so lucky that Ellen said, ‘yes,'” Howald added. “She’s not one of the best women directors. She’s one of the best directors, period. Her body of work is beyond compare and she brings not only an amazing eye to her film, but so much heart. That was essential for such delicate subject matter.”
“At its core, the rape kit backlog is about survivors,” Joyful Heart’s Managing Director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, said in a press release. “When a person is sexually-assaulted and chooses to undergo the invasive four-to-six-hour evidence collection examination at the hospital, they expect the kit will be tested and the evidence used to prosecute the attacker. The public expects the same.”
Let’s hope it works. Given we are in the #metoo era, it most likely has a good chance.
The spots are being distributed pro bono by Boom Broadcast & Media Relations, and they will air on Viacom’s networks and the Investigation Discovery channel.
Agency: Invisible Man
Founder – Rachel Howald
Executive Producer – Lisa Goore
Art Director – Rachel Howald
Copywriter – Rachel Howald
Executive Producer – Niels Schuurmans
Producer – Tony Calandra
Production Company – The Corner Shop
Director – Ellen Kuras
Production Company Executive Producer – Anna Hashmi
Production Company Producer – Jessica Miller
Editorial Company – Rock Paper Scissors NY
Executive Producer – Eve Kornblum
Producer – Lisa Barnable
Editor – Chris Mitchell
Assistant Editor – Tania Mesta
VFX/Flame – Eddie Reina
Colorist – Sofie Borup
Producer- Alexandra Lubano
Music Consultant – Paul Greco
Music – “The Light” by The Album Leaf
Sound Mixing – Tom Jucarone @ Sound Lounge
Contact Colin Costello at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.