Mariska Hargitay on national rape kit testing backlog: ‘I’m beyond outraged’

I used to be a huge Law & Order: SVU fan-girl. Like, I was obsessed with it. I’ve probably seen all of the SVU episodes up until… I don’t know, Season 7 or 8? I stopped watching it when they were doing too much stunt-casting and the shenanigans with the revolving ADAs was terrible (ugh, Sharon Stone). Then Christopher Meloni left and I was glad I was no longer watching. Still, I have an abiding love and admiration for Mariska Hargitay/Detective Olivia Benson. What I love in particular about Mariska is that she completely owns the role of Det. Benson and she’s used that role and her position to speak for real-life victims of sexual violence and rape. She founded a charity to support victims of sexual violence called The Joyful Heart Foundation. And now she’s using her fame to bring attention to an urgent and important criminal issue: the backlog of untested rape kits.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star Mariska Hargitay is helping victims of rape off-screen, too. Hargitay was spotted at restaurant Sienna in East Hampton saying she’s campaigning for law-enforcement agencies to deal with a national backlog of untested “rape kits.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in police and crime- lab storage facilities,” she wrote in a recent column online. “Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police . . . The evidence is then collected in a ‘Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit’ — a rape kit . . . And yet, hundreds of thousands of times, a decision is made not to process the evidence. Too difficult to prosecute, too murky, too expensive — not a priority.”

A source said Hargitay will shoot a documentary on this subject in two months. She has a producer for the project and is meeting with directors. The actress was overheard further explaining, “When you don’t test a rape kit, it sends the message that’s it’s not a serious crime, and I’m beyond outraged.”

[From Page Six]

God, how admirable. What an important issue and what a great spokesperson for the issue. I LOVE HER!! Seriously, I remember reading about the rape kit backlog a few years ago, and I believe that one of the pressure points of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization (which was left unauthorized for a whole year in 2012 before being reauthorized this year) was dedicating funding to work through the rape kit backlog. Still, this is a vital issue that needs more attention and I love that Mariska is doing her part.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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42 Responses to “Mariska Hargitay on national rape kit testing backlog: ‘I’m beyond outraged’”

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  1. Lindy says:

    This is what celebrity should be used for – to call attention to otherwise ignored issues.

    Mariska is looking more and more like her famous mom, particularly in the last pic!

    • LakeMom says:

      Absolutely agree with you! At last, a celebrity using their voice for something that matters and not something ridiculous like Scientology.

  2. fancyamazon says:

    I love her, and am happy to see she is bringing an issue like this to light.

    • V4Real says:

      Even though I stopped watching SVU after Meloni left I still adore Mariska. This is a cause well worth pursuing and I’m glad she is helping to bring it to light.

  3. Common Sense says:

    Love Mariska! Her “Irish twins” have gotten so big and are so cute. August is a beautiful boy.

  4. Lucy2 says:

    I don’t watch her show anymore either, but I will always be a fan. She’s great.

  5. Sixer says:

    Kaiser, I agree. Way to go, Mariska.

  6. Caity says:

    I love her, she’s so beautiful, and I love that’s she’s so passionate about this, olivia is not just a character to her.

  7. minimi says:

    That is indeed inspiring. I didn’t watch that much Law & Order, but still I always thought it was pretty entertaining.
    I really respect her for using her celebrity status to bring to light such an important issue. Mariska is beyond cool.

  8. abbie246 says:

    I used to love the show but the storylines got weird. It used to be about one case. Now they work on a case that turns into a completely random case. I like Mariska. It’s interesting when a celebrity champions a little known issue.

  9. L says:

    Mariska is awesome. They did a pretty solid episodes about this on L&O:SVU-I’m glad that Mariska is a force for positive change. Detroit alone has 11,000 kits in their backlog. They recently got a grant to test about 500 of them-and caught about 30 serial rapists via their DNA.

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/05/18777133-more-than-10000-forgotten-detroit-rape-kits-to-be-tested?lite

    • Anna says:

      That’s inspiring. Sadly, this article reminded me of a story from a few years ago – the town where Sarah Palin was mayor requiring victims to pay for their own rape kit processing http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/21/palin.rape.exams/. Abhorrent.

    • Lucrezia says:

      I read L’s Detroit-link. Was the 1 in 4 match rate for stranger rape cases or does it include a bunch of date-rape type situations (where a DNA match isn’t going to add much to the case because they already agree they had sex, the argument is whether it was consensual)?

      If I could only test 500, I’d have specifically chosen the stranger scenarios, where a DNA match is going to basically solve the case. But if 1 in 4 stranger-rapes could be solved with extra resources, it horrifies me that the police aren’t jumping all over it. That kind of success rate seems like an automatic no-brainer. I just don’t understand.

  10. j.eyre says:

    I agree with everyone here, I think it admirable that she is using her visibility to shed light on such things.

    I had no idea about the backlog – that is shameful. I hope all those victims get justice and some kind of peace.

  11. Seattlemomma says:

    Fantastic that she’s using her celebrity to bring light to this.

  12. Claudia says:

    I’m a big fan of SVU, and I’m completely caught up. To everyone who gave up years ago (especially when Meloni left)– I urge you to give it another shot! It did go through a slump for a while there, but the newcomers are great (give it a season) and the storylines are so much better. This last season ended with a cliffhanger concerning Mariska’s character. I can’t wait for the new season to start :)

    Mariska is so admirable. Major kudos to her for her activism, I have friends who were raped and/or molested. It is not ok to send out the message that rape is a trivial crime. It’s serious and life-altering; it’s a violation so many of us have to deal with for the rest of our lives. Even if the cases were never prosecuted, it’s important to have the DNA on file for any possible links or future cases. Hell, I read back in May that out of 1500 rape kits that were sent to labs in Tennessee, only 11 were tested fully. There are also so many instances were the labs don’t even get the rape kits and they just languish in police department storage (when it should go straight to testing labs). It is an outrage, and I’m glad Mariska is stepping up. Her fame will bring attention to the cause.

    • Jayna says:

      The newcomers really are great and revitalized the show. I love both new characters. I love her too. I missed the last show. Darn. A cliffhanger?

    • PKY says:

      Agreed! After so many years of watching I couldn’t give up on SVU and I’m glad I stuck it out. Really like the new characters a lot.

  13. Ncboudicca says:

    Now I know what cause will get some of my year-end bonus. Thanks.

  14. Diana says:

    Beautiful person inside and out!!!!! What a role model! Love her to pieces!!

  15. Marty says:

    SVU is hit or miss these days, but they had a very powerful episode a few months ago dealing with the growing epidemic of rape on college campuses and the way the acedemic admins try to cover it up.

    Mariska does great work on her show and in real life, she’s a truely inspiring woman.

  16. Redheadwriter says:

    Yup. We can process UA tests in an instant and for much less serious issues but the true crimes are not even bothered with. Something is not right with that. Go, Mariska!

  17. Bijlee says:

    I can’t watch svu. The few times I have I’ve been absolutely freaked out. It is a good show, I just can’t stomach it. And this is amazing what she’s doing. I had no idea how extensive the backlog was. Definitely something I’m going to tell family and friends.

  18. Leah says:

    She is an inspirational woman. Love her!

  19. SoCalgal says:

    God I love her! Smart and beautiful. What a fantastic subject to throw support behind.

  20. Rux says:

    I LOVE HER!!!!!! I will watch repeats of L&O old school with Stabler every Tuesday on USA!

    I can’t believe there is such a backlog; this is ridiculous.

  21. Apples says:

    Impressive. Best use of celebrity that I have heard of in a while.

  22. MademoiselleRose says:

    I always loved SVU best of all the Law and Order series, but I stopped watching when they started with too much personal stuff on the characters, taking away from the crime stories, which bugged me. I still love watching the older repeats. I think MH is fabulous and have always liked her. I like her even more now. Sure is nice to read a positive story on a celebrity for a change instead of that douche, Beibs, spitting on people and looking at Miley’s tongue, arse, forgot to wear her pants idiot stuff.

  23. Kiddo says:

    How can the government get around to catching criminals with the kits, when all the efforts and resources are put toward more important things, like suspecting all citizens of being criminal, through intensive spying? Priorities, people. (insert sarcasm and disgust throughout sentence)

    • Bijlee says:

      …That’s actually a good point. It’s obvious their monitoring tactics are not working and catching real criminals. Especially since they have so much data they don’t know what to do with or analyze. It’s just money being spent to collect information on people’s tumber posts and tweets and their personal emails. There’s just tooooo much useless and unnecessary information throughout all of these to do anything properly.

  24. MoxyLady007 says:

    This is such important work. I am so happy she is taking it on. This is how women can be a girls girl. By actually taking care of other women.

  25. diva says:

    I love her!

  26. Anna S. says:

    My sister worked for a congresswoman and Mariska came regularly to lobby for funding to test the backlogged kits. She’s awesome and I love that she isn’t just a celebrity, but uses her fame for something important. I <3 her!

  27. Raquel says:

    She has a point about the rape kits. Yes, they are expensive to process–but how much are spending to enforce laws against weed?

    It is a matter of priorities, and rape has a tragically low priority in this country.

  28. Suze says:

    She is just so smart and dedicated. This is a great cause and I am really impressed the amount of clout she has thrown behind it.

  29. Tiffany :) says:

    THANK YOU CB for posting this story, I am only sad that i just saw it on page 2! I would have been commenting all day to bump the story and raise more awareness.

    The funding of rape kits is such a local thing compared to other issues…it is a place where we ALL have the ability to impact the lives of women in our communities. I am going to look into what can be done in my city right now…

  30. blaize says:

    It’s a good thing that she drew attention to this issue, because now we can donate money to her cause. You’d think that something like this would be a priority, but society has always had such issues with how it treats and responds to rape.

  31. ohiogirl says:

    Good on her for bringing attention to this and starting her foundation.

  32. Ana Carla says:

    Mariska Hargitay is the only celebrity that I envy. In a good way. She is not only beautiful. She is intelligent, courageous, determined and deeply human. His social work is amazing and deserves all the accolades.