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Actor Mariska Hargitay wants to get rid of the back log of so-called “rape kits” that sit with their evidence in warehouses across the United States.

Instead of getting processed to provide the information needed to identify and arrest perpetrators, the kits sit in storage facilities while the rapists remain at large and in many cases rape again. Each rape kit contains the examination results of the victim and of the crime scene, but not until it is tested can it provide the identity of the attacker. If the case is deemed too difficult or too expensive, it could take years for it to be looked at.

Hargitay and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, have made it their mission to get the kits looked at sooner than later. In a Huffington Post op-ed that they co-wrote, they noted that as New York City cleared its backlog of 17,000 rape kits, the arrest rate for rape went up from 40 to 70 percent.

When a grant from the National Institute of Justice provided for 400 kits in Detroit to be tested, the result was also disturbing in its message, yet hopeful. “Thirty potential serial rapists were found, including a man who raped a twelve-year-old boy, then remained free to rape a five-year old. From those first 400 kits, prosecutors have already secured two convictions, and traced assailants to twelve additional states and the District of Columbia,” they wrote.

Hagirtay is using her Joyful Heart Foundation to raise awareness about this issue, but she and Worthy are also lobbying the US government and were pleased that President Obama recently budgeted $20 million to get the hundreds of thousands of shelved kits tested.

“We look forward to working with Members of Congress as they consider final budget proposals this year to ensure that the Department of Justice’s efforts to eliminate the backlog remain fully funded,” they wrote. “We must eliminate this backlog. We must give survivors the justice they deserve. We must put dangerous assailants behind bars. The stakes are simply too high.”

You can learn more about their efforts here.

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