SAAM and the Rape Kit Backlogs

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Illustration: Noopur Goel

The beginning of April marks the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). On average, 237,868 people are survivors of sexual assault each year. With such a high number, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center creates a campaign each year to bring different aspects of these crimes to light.

This year, NSVRC focused on youth and healthy sexuality. On their site, you can download a toolkit that shows the impact of social media on change and how a post on any site can start a conversation.

At FEM, we are going to spend part of this month writing about events on the UCLA campus that are inspired by SAAM. We will cover important issues regarding sexual assault and try to educate our readers on consent, relationships, and sex.

If no one in your area is planning events, NSVRC has created a document that can help people start their own campaign.

This month of awareness and activism arrives as the story of rape kit backlogs gained media attention near the end of March.

Over 400,000 kits are untested in the United States, and 11,000 in the city of Detroit alone. In 2009, an abandoned storage facility was opened and kits dating back to the 1980’s were found. Since that time only 1,600 kits have been processed, but 100 serial rapists have been identified.

Police have stated that because the cost of testing these kits can range from $500 up to $1500, budget cuts have affected how many tests will actually go through.

End the Backlog, a group that pushes to get rape kits tested across the country stated that “New York City’s arrest rate for rape cases went from 40% to 70% after the state eliminated its 17,00-kit backlog in 2003.”

The organization also works with a non-profit group created by Mariska Hargitay, who has been a major force in getting media attention on this issue.

In response to public outcry, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder have created a proposal that would give “$35 million in grants to communities to address their most critical needs for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, including the testing of unanalyzed rape kits.” The proposal is within the Obama 2015 budget plan and will have to be passed through Congress for approval.

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If you or someone you know has been a survivor of sexual assault, you can contact loveisrespect at their website or their phone line at 1-866-331-9474 for free.

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