December 10, 2105; Courthouse News Service

NPQ has long been reporting on huge backlog of untested rape kits sitting at law enforcement agencies all over the country. The lack of funding and urgency to address this national scandal speaks volumes about the status of women in American society. Some localities have taken on the problem with meaningful levels of funding and creative new programs, but many others have done very little. It is a problem that merits a national response.

Now, included in the $1.1 trillion spending bill agreed upon by Congress on Tuesday is $41 million to help localities process backlogged sexual-assault evidence kits. The money will fund a new Department of Justice program designed to help states and communities test their backlog of kits, estimated to exceed 100,000 nationally.

Every untested kit poses a threat to public safety because it represents an unidentified perpetrator who has not yet been prosecuted and who could be victimizing others. Already last week, applications began pouring in to the Department of Justice seeking use of the resources.

This issue has been pursued doggedly by the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit established by Law and Order: Special Victims Unit actress Mariska Harigtay in conjunction with other local and national advocates. — Ruth McCambridge