A much-loved TV cop speaks out to celebrate what Manhattan's DA decided regarding rape kits.
It's like she stepped off of my TV and into my real life to continue kicking ass in the real world, along with other heroes and advocates for rape victims.
You probably know Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson from NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." There, she spends her days taking down some of TV's most vile and disgusting bad guys.
Turns out, though, that her real life isn't all that different. As president and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, Mariska advocates for sexual abuse victims around the world and works hard to help them heal.
Mariska's top priority? Our country's rape kit problem.
Rape kits go by many names: sexual assault evidence collection kits, sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, and others. Essentially, they're packets of evidence, like photographs, swabs, and blood and urine specimens collected following a sexual assault. And it's probably no surprise that the collection of this evidence is often painfully invasive for the victim.
Which is why it really sucks there's a backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits.
Mariska puts it like this:
But there is some good news.
With the support of Mariska and the Joyful Heart Foundation, Manhattan's district attorney recently pledged $35 million to help eliminate that backlog.
His name is Cyrus R. Vance Jr. And those GIFs? That's Mariska right after thanking him for being a great ally to the cause.
Vance's pledge will actually do a lot more than help tackle the rape kit backlog. It'll also go toward creating comprehensive data and information sharing systems nationwide. That means we'll be better equipped to identify suspects, convict perpetrators, prevent future offenses, and even free the innocent. Not just in Manhattan, but across the country.
But there's more work to do. A lot of it, actually.
Mariska says, "So based on test results, there is a staggering number of witnesses to track down, case files to analyze, suspects to pursue, and survivors to reengage with care, with expertise, and with compassion."
And she's right. What her organization has accomplished in conjunction with the district attorney's office is only a baby step toward the ultimate goal.
But here's another.
President Obama just doubled down on the backlog problem with an additional $41 million.
That's a lot of money. And it means making an even bigger dent in the backlog, along with even better information sharing. All in the name of getting survivors the justice they deserve.
Though we still have a long road ahead.
The important thing, for now, is that survivors of sexual assault have some powerful people in their corner. Fighting on their behalf.
The Manhattan DA.
The president of the United States.
And a badass TV cop who won't be backing down any time soon.
You can watch the video here from to learn more about how Cyrus, Mariska, and the Joyful Heart Foundation are making a difference.