"SVU" Star Calls for Dallas to Clear Rape Kit Backlog

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    The star of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" wants every rape kit in America tested. 

    Mariska Hargitay called the backlog of untested rape kits sitting on evidence shelves across the country an epidemic.

    Lost Justice in Rape Kit Backlog

    [DFW] Lost Justice in Rape Kit Backlog
    Law & Order: Special Victims Unite star Mariska Hargitay is on a mission to raise awareness of thousands of untested rape kids, and Dallas has a large backlog. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010)

    "What I found was frightening, staggering and surprising. The statistics really blew my mind," said Hargitay. 

    Hargitay said her Joyful Heart Foundation found that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country. Joyful Heart works with victims of sexual assault. Hargitay say the foundations goal is simple, "we want to end the rape kit backlog in this country."

    Victims Angered by Suspension of Cold-Case DNA Testing

    [DFW] Victims Angered by Suspension of Cold-Case DNA Testing
    Victims say they are outraged by the decision to suspend DNA testing of cold-case rape kits. (Published Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009)

    NBCDFW first reported Dallas' problem months ago when it exposed the problem inside the Dallas Police Department. By the department's own account, there could be more then a 1,000 untested cold case rape kits waiting for DNA testing.

    The city said the backlog is due to a lack of funds and an overburdened crime lab.

    DPD Does About Face on Testing Cold Case Rape Kits

    [DFW] DPD Does About Face on Testing Cold Case Rape Kits
    After NBC DFW reported the DPD would suspend DNA testing of cold case rape kits, the DPD has done an about face and will once again begin testing. (Published Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009)

    After the report, the city said it would start sending some of the kits to the state lab for testing. The city also expects to pay for more testing with federal grant money.

    But the department acknowledges it still has a long way to go before erasing the backlog of kits.

    Victim's advocate Sarah Tofte, who works with Hargitay and the Joyful Heart Foundation, said cities such as Dallas need to act faster when it comes to testing the old rape kits. 

    "Having thousands of untested kits sends the message to victims that their cases don't matter, and it sends a message to perpetrators that you can go ahead and keep committing the crime because you are going to get away with this crime," she said.