‘I Am Evidence’ brings prominence of untested rape kits to light

_I Am Evidence_ educates viewers on the different challenges rape victims face in modern America.


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I Am Evidence, an HBO documentary that aired April 16, focuses on the prevalent issue of untested rape kits in cities across America.

Mariska Hargitay, producer of the film and actress on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, said at the beginning of the documentary that she started advocating for the funding and testing of rape kits after receiving thousands of letters from viewers of SVU detailing their rape stories.

“I am evidence, literally,” Ericka, a rape victim whose kit had not been tested for 11 years, said in the documentary. “My name is on a box on a shelf. It has never been tested.”

The documentary starts in Detroit, where Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy explains that in August 2009 an assistant of hers discovered 11,000 untested rape kits in an abandoned warehouse that the Detroit Police Department was using to store evidence.

Ever since, Worthy and a small team of investigators have been working through the kits and contacting victims in the hopes that they will help bring their cases to light.

Throughout the film, victims with untested kits in Ohio, Detroit and Los Angeles share their stories, including the way the police handled their accounts. Several women explain that the police officers painted victims as if they deserved to be raped, which may be the reason their rape kits never made it off the shelves and into labs to be tested.

“All of the questions that I got from law enforcement were asked with the intention of finding out what I did to cause assault,” Helena, a victim from Los Angeles who was kidnapped and held by her abuser for 10 hours, said in the documentary.

Now, prosecutors like Worthy are working with psychologists to train police officers to be empathetic when they discuss attacks with victims. They believe this will lead law enforcement to follow through with rape cases instead of putting the kits on a shelf and moving past the story because they are skeptical of the victim.

While the movie ends on a high note — that they are in the process of bringing justice to abusers and recognizing patterns with serial rapists — they’re still a ways from making sure that rape kits don’t go untested like they have been. The film inspires viewers to take action by donating to rape kit task forces on its website and shows the rewarding side of helping victims who assumed their cases would never be solved.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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