(left to right, Trish Adlesic, Geeta Gandbhir, Helena, Mariska Hargitay, Kym Worth and Tribeca staff after the screening)
How can a person be evidence?
The film of that same name, currently screening at Tribeca Film Festival aims to answer that question by shining a strong spotlight on the unbelievably large rape kit backlog that is still facing America after it was first discovered in New York City in the mid 1990s.
There are more than 200,000 rape kits that have gone untested and in working on Detroit’s backlog of more than 10,000 Kym Worthy and her task force came to find out that their backlog touched 39 other states. I don’t think forty is the outside limit by any shot. There’s no doubt that the untested rape kits touch victims nation and worldwide.
For more on why I AM EVIDENCE is necessary, here is Mariska Hargitay (producer) and a panel of the directors and two survivors from after last night’s screening.
It’s fitting that Trish Adlesic, Oscar/Emmy nominated for her work on Gasland and Gasland Part II (environmental devastation and public safety hazards of fracking), is involved with this film because the same issues that led to the Flint water crisis are a problem in the rape kit backlog in Detroit. Even when the police responding recognize that rape is a crime and the victim’s testimony should be accepted as credible, there’s still no money to test the rape kits, just like there isn’t money for clean water. Two parts of a major crisis facing not only middle America, but Americans as a whole. Sadly, disproportionately, those who can least afford it.
I’ve been a proud supporter of the work of Joyful Heart for a long time, but this is one of their most important projects. It is impossible to say “No More” when jurisdictions have the ability to stop rapists with evidence in their possession, but don’t have the finances or tools to stop them. I was aware of the rape kit backlog but until I watched the film, I had no idea the depth and breadth of the backlog. The saddest was knowing that if Helena (Los Angeles)’s kit had been tested in an appropriate amount of time, then Amberly (suburban Ohio), wouldn’t have been raped by Charles Courtney Jr.
It was a natural partnership for Joyful Heart to partner with End the Backlog to bring this movie to fruition and for Joyful Heart to serve as the social action partner for the film. Thank you Joyful Heart for allowing us to help you help the survivors. One of the most important takeaways from this film, whether you see it live or not is that going forward, “No one can say now that they didn’t know”.
In the words of I AM EVIDENCE, this is the time and an opportunity to “Turn your outrage into action”. The time is crucial. Texas is trying, but federal funds are at risk. While the issue is bigger than any current occupant of the White House, the issue of treatment of and respect for women is huge. Part of the reason the backlog exists is because we live in a culture where women reporting rape are not believed to be credible:
“it exists because of this victim-blaming attitude that’s so pervasive in our society. It’s just not a small group of people making bad decisions; it’s so deeply engrained and entrenched in our thinking. What was she wearing? Why was she out so late? You can hear from the men in the film that it’s almost normal and acceptable. We have to change it on a systemic level because these attitudes have obviously devastating consequences.“ ~Mariska Hargitay
Here’s how you can start to take action. You can also:
- Donate to End the Backlog through Joyful Heart
- Sign Up for Joyful Heart’s social action campaign
- Follow @EndTheBacklog for this and other helpful tips on what you can do locally.
I hope that Kym Worthy is right. I hope we do END THE BACKLOG in our lifetimes. It’s on us to do our part though. There are no magic wands.