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

By Grant Stinchfield
|  Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010  |  Updated 5:41 PM CDT
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Law & Order: Special Victims Unite star <a title=Mariska Hargitay is on a mission to raise awareness of thousands of untested rape kids, and Dallas has a large backlog." />

Grant Stinchfield, NBCDFW.com

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.

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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.

"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."

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.

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.

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