Last night, Law & Order: SVU ran a Very Special Episode. It took on the subject of rape kit backlogs and starred Jennifer Love Hewitt. And let's just say, in true after-school-special fashion, it drove its point home.
As we've discussed before, unprocessed rape kits are a major issue and an ongoing source of frustration to all those who know how invaluable they are in catching rapists. But in case you weren't aware of the issue, this episode, "Behave," aimed to educate you. And while drama, dialogue and plausibility may have suffered somewhat in the process, by gum, the issue was addressed!
The premise was, J.Love is a woman who's been raped repeatedly by the same man over the course of 15 years. Moving on: she's scared, and needs a Talk from Benson on victim-shaming.
This apparently entails devoting a ton of NYPD resources to stalking and harassing this guy. Moving on: the victim is persuaded to have a rape kit done and we see what the process entails, from swabs to exam — something I don't remember the show making explicit in the past. Benson and Stabler want to try to connect the creep with other rapes around the country, but these cities have major backlogs of unfiled rape kits and as such the information isn't available.
But: herein lies the danger of letting rape kits lie fallow and unregistered! Judith Light has no choice!
Don't worry, they're able to put him away on a kidnapping chart when a piece of masking tape shows up, but that's really not the point. Blogging about the episode, Mariska Hargitay wrote,
One of the most rewarding aspects of working on SVU is the show's ability to shine a light on the problem of sexual violence. This next episode is one of the most meaningful I have ever done, and it stands as a powerful example of the way we aim to raise awareness about these difficult issues...Recently, I heard from a rape victim whose kit was tested 13 years after she was raped. Thirteen years. The DNA in her kit matched the profile of a convicted rapist already in prison. Learning the identity of her rapists, and that he was in a place where he could not hurt her, gave this woman a sense of peace for the first time since she was raped. It is for this woman and all the others like her that I am committed to doing my part to end the rape kit backlog. I hope you will join us in this cause. Together, we can end the backlog and bring justice to survivors.
Ripped from the headlines, indeed.
Learn more about what you can do at End the Backlog, created by Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation.