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If you are in the Detroit area Mariska will be on the local 4 News tonight at 11pm. You can watch a preview below. Hopefully the interview will be online for those of us not in Detroit!

Tonight at 11 p.m. – Get the inside story on Law & Order’s Mariska Hargitay and her crusade to help tackle Detroit’s unsolved rapes!

Also, Fox news in Detroit did a segment on the press conference which you can watch below. Thanks to Renee for the heads up!

Detroit local news did a segment on the Rape Kit backlog press conference. I uploaded the video to YouTube so be sure to check it out!


I uploaded a few pictures from the Rape Kit Backlog press conference. I’ll be adding more as I find them so keep checking back!

Rape Kit Backlog Press Conference in Detroit
March 10, 2014

*Edit* 37 pictures have been added to the gallery. A huge thank you goes out to Claudia for some of these!

Law & Order: SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay is adding producer to her résumé.

The actress, who recently directed her first episode of the NBC procedural, will produce Shelved, a documentary about the rape kit backlog.

Hargitay, who founded The Joyful Heart Foundation to help survivors of sexual assault,, domestic violence and child abuse, will use the organization to serve as a social action partner, counsel and beneficiary on the film.

Production begins this week in Detroit, where the foundation has spent the past three years working with prosecutors, police and community advocates to fix the city’s rape kit backlog of 11,000 untested kits. The 1,600 kits that so far has been tested have resulted in the identification 87 serial rapists and crimes in 19 states. Detroit will serve as the focus of the film, but the documentary will also examine the backlog as it exists in cities and states across the country.

Marc Levin (Chicagoland, Hard Times, Brick City) will direct and Trish Adlesic (Gasland and SVU‘s location manager) will oversee day-to-day producing duties. Joyful Heart CEO Maile Zambuto is on board as an executive producer. For his part, Levin is a three-time News & Documentary Emmy Award nominee, winning for 1987’s The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. Shelved will also follow the momentum building among policymakers and the federal, state and local level to end the backlog and change the way the criminal justice system as well as communities across the country respond to sexual violence.

“I was shocked when I learned about the rape kit backlog, and the lost opportunities for justice — and healing — it represents,” Hargitay told The Hollywood Reporter. “I also find the backlog to be the starkest example of how we regard for the issue of sexual violence in the country: Something that belongs tucked away on a shelf. That attitude — and the violence — has to end, and I hope this film will open people’s eyes to the value of investing in change.”

Hargitay, who has spent the past 15 seasons starring on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, has won a Golden Globe and Emmy for her work as Detective Olivia Benson on the Dick Wolf procedural. She founded Joyful Heart in 2004 and is a tireless advocate for social reform to end the backlog. She’s repped by CAA.


Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is using some star power in her efforts to process a backlog of hundreds of untested rape kits.

Hollywood actress Mariska Hargitay, star of the popular hit show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” is scheduled to hold a news conference Monday along with Worthy to raise awareness for the office’s rape kits issue.

Hargitay, president of the Joyful Heart Foundation, will join Worthy at an 11:30 a.m. press conference at Worthy’s office in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Worthy told city officials Tuesday it remains a struggle for her to process more than 10,000 untested rape kits because her office is “severely” understaffed. She said due to county budget cuts, her office is down 90 staffers, with no decrease in work.

So far, federal and state money — including several million dollars committed from the state last summer — have allowed the office to test about 1,600, she said. Each kit, Worthy added, cost about $1,200 to $1,500 to process.

Some of the unprocessed rape kits date back 25 years and the statute of limitations has expired.

Worthy is expected to discuss Monday the Detroit Rape Kit Project and the proposed Sexual Assault Kit Evidence Submission Act bill in Lansing, which establishes time lines for law enforcement agencies to pick up the kits and have them tested at laboratories across the state.

Hargitay and her foundation, along with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, have been a big part of the effort to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits, the prosecutor’s office in a press release Friday.

There are about 400,000 untested rape kits in police departments and crime labs across the country, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation’s website. The foundation also has an initiative, endthebacklog.org, aimed at raising awareness about efforts to fund programs and efforts to end rape kit backlogs in cities across the country.


The NO MORE PSA campaign, spearheaded by Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation in partnership with NO MORE—a national movement galvanizing greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault—got a very big kickoff in Hollywood recently…a three-story high kickoff, in fact. The 12-story 1600 VINE apartment complex at Hollywood and Vine donated their three-story billboard to Joyful Heart to initiate the landmark structure’s policy of supporting Hollywood-based charities and activism. The national NO MORE PSA campaign, which features televisions and print ads with over 40 iconic public figures, generates awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault and encourage bystanders to help. With over 40,000 views a day and visibility from the 101 Freeway, the 1600 VINE billboard is helping power NO MORE’s effort to encourage public engagement around violence and abuse.

“We’re deeply moved by Ms. Hargitay and her foundation’s brave effort, in partnership with the NO MORE movement, to engage each of us in the report of violent abuse which is now so tragically prevalent,” stated Bob Klein, president of Klein-Financial, which operates 1600 VINE. “This PSA reflects 1600 VINE’s resolve to use this unique advertising tool to help support the charity and activism which leading Hollywood entertainment figures so often undertake. It’s a policy we are engaging in with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which has been Hollywood’s charity arm for over seventy years. Our building stands on the site of the Hollywood Brown Derby where the movie business’ legends gathered, and we’re proud to help the great new stars like Ms. Hargitay carry on those prior stars’ traditions of concern, generosity and activism.”

“Society continues to misplace shame and blame on survivors,” said Mariska Hargitay. “That has to end. What we saw during the filming, brave and strong and authentic person after person, was people standing up for each other, for the people they love, for their partners, wives, husbands, children, friends, mothers and fathers, for people they’ve never met, for themselves. I was just moved beyond words. NO MORE fills me with confidence and renewed determination.”

Ms. Hargitay is the star of one of the longest-running and most honored dramatic television series, “Law And Order: SVU,” which often deals with and exposes domestic violence and abuse. As an actress, activist and advocate, Mariska Hargitay has dedicated her time, talent and resources to be an inspiration and force for change. In 2004, Ms. Hargitay took her commitment to a higher and more personal level by establishing the Joyful Heart Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.


A national organization founded by “Law & Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay will help Memphis with the backlog of more than 12,000 rape kits.

The Joyful Heart Foundation assists cities in formulating manuals to systematically process untested rape kits.

“Joyful Heart’s mission is to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse,” said Hargitay.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton issued an executive order instructing the police department to develop a plan to end the rape kit backlog on October 21.

JHF, which has a series of experts on staff, will arrive in Memphis February 12 to review and tweak the city’s plan.

Rape survivor Meaghan Ybos is thankful Hargitay’s foundation is coming to Memphis. She will work with JHF and the city to help process the rape kits.

“What they specialize in is exactly the problem we have here,” she said. “Apparently, from seeing [one Law & Order] episode, hundreds of people began writing in to Mariska Hargitay personally disclosing their own survivor stories for the first time.”

Hargitay’s website features the problem in Memphis and commends Wharton for issuing the executive order.

The foundation recently raised money to end Detroit’s backlog.

“We found through talking with the Joyful Heart Foundation that even though Detroit had no money to deal with this problem, the community came together in a collective way,” said Ybos.

Click here for more on the JHF, and click here for their “End of the Backlog” website.

When Mariska Hargitay tweeted back in May, “Happy weekend. It’s official. Season 15 – I’LL BE BACK!” she gave her loyal “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” fans a treat, breaking the news that she’d re-upped before anyone else.

“She has a lot of power on the show,” says showrunner Warren Leight, who joined the series in 2011, roughly 12 years after original cast member Hargitay fi rst signed on. “Luckily, she uses her power for good and not evil.”

He has a point: Coming from nearly any other actress of Hargitay’s stature, the tweet might have smacked of power play, a way to assert who’s really in charge over there.

If she’d wanted, she could get away with it.

Hargitay is the only lead to have won an Emmy for any show in the once-mighty “Law & Order” franchise; she’s the anchor of TV’s longest-running drama, an ensemble series that chugs away despite tough slot competition from shows like “Modern Family” and “American Idol” (it averaged 2.1 ratings with adults 18-49 last season); and she’s one of TV’s top earners (Forbes puts her yearly earnings at $10 million). And, as almost anyone from the network on down will say, she and her tough but empathetic character Det. Olivia Benson are the heart of the show.

But that wasn’t what was behind the tweet. Hargitay just wanted to keep her fans — who last saw Benson in the season 14 finale in dire straits — from stressing out. It’s a typical stance from the actress, who says her job has transformed into “my life’s work.”

“The first time I read the show’s script, I thought, ‘I love this woman, I understand the trauma she survived,’ ” says Hargitay (Benson is the product of her mother’s rape). “And it’s evolved beyond a television show; I feel it truly is an agent of change.”

Over the years, Hargitay may not have become Benson, but she’s channeled the dark energy the show can put out into advocacy and charity work. In addition to launching her Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help victims of sexual abuse and trauma (they’ve raised nearly $15 million to date, she reports), she’s brought in teams of experts through the foundation to go on retreats with the show’s writers, and regularly fields unusual letters from viewers, many of whom are opening up about their own abuse for the first time when they write her.

“I sometimes get confused myself; I spend so much time as an actor and advocate, and they are interwoven,” she says. “These girls are looking for someone to look up to. Olivia is empowered, and they aspire to be like that. They say, ‘I wish Olivia was my mother. Then she could have protected me.’”

Tough, emotional stuff — yet that bond is an unintended boon for the network. In the years since “SVU” premiered, the audience for broadcast has shifted and become much more female-friendly. For NBC, having a series that portrays not just a powerful female lead who helps victims, but one whose real-life portrayer does the same, has helped brand the show in ways that couldn’t have been planned.

Another plus: Benson and Hargitay’s appeal spans generations. “SVU” is a particularly sticky show thanks to its Twitter presence, and Leight says that it’s not just the expected over-35 audience that likes watching an over-40 actress (Hargitay is 49), it’s also the Twitter generation. “Kids watch it with their moms,” he says. “There’s a college audience. And every week we have an extremely vibrant social media response to the show that doesn’t always reflect ratings.”

Says Vernon Sanders, current programming exec VP at NBC, “It’s hard to say how much of our audience is coming exclusively for Mariska, but women are our primary audience. Mariska is one of those performers who transcends. The fact that she’s got appeal to not just one demographic … is a unique thing on the television landscape.”

Naturally, there’s a hitch: Even Hargitay, who has invested so many years and a good chunk of her personal time into the show and its social issues says it may be time for a break.

“I shoot 14½ hours each day, and I have two babies at home, and there are a lot of things I haven’t done acting-wise,” she says. While she’ll be directing episodes for the first time this year and says she’s still challenged by the material, it appears she’s considering ending her run with the series.

“It is a place of darkness that I’ve been immersed in, and there are times it does get to me,” she says. “I need more light and joy. A lot of that I can exorcise by working with Joyful Heart and being an agent of change. It’s a great role, and it has been great to me, but it’s like running a marathon. I’ve been doing it a long time.”

So what happens when, inevitably, the heart of the show opts out? “I’m glad we haven’t had to face that,” says Sanders, who says NBC would have to talk with creator Dick Wolf and Leight about whether the series should even continue if Hargitay leaves. “We’d have to give it a lot of thought, and it would be a collaborative decision.”

Leight says if, and when, she does go he’s sure they’ll find a way to ease her away, rather than abruptly see her disappear. “We’d have a way to arc her out; she might not leave all at once. There would be a chance for closure, and then you hope you can reinvent the show.”

“SVU” started shooting its first episodes of season 15 in July, and Hargitay — as promised in her tweet — was back and cracking up the crew and her fellow actors (“She has a wild sense of humor, people don’t always know that,” says Sanders). But she still speaks — to continue her metaphor — like a runner who has glimpsed the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

“Sometimes when you see the finish line you can run faster and you have more energy,” she says. “So that’s how I’m sort of approaching it. I’m going to give it my all and sprint as hard as I can.”


Yesterday, Vice President Biden visited the National Domestic Violence Hotline to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Vice President Biden created the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 (VAWA) and has long championed the cause of ending domestic violence. The Vice President was accompanied by actress Mariska Hargitay, a key advocate working against abuse. Together Vice President Biden and Mariska toured the Hotline, met with frontline advocates, and observed these life-saving services in action.

His voice thick with emotion, Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday again toured the National Domestic Violence Hotline he helped create, calling victims of such abuse “prisoners in plain sight.”

Housed in an unmarked building in suburban Austin, the hotline was founded in 1996, two years after Congress approved the federal Violence Against Women Act, which Biden sponsored while still a senator from Delaware.

“I came primarily to say thank you,” Biden told a packed room of staff members and media. “There’s nothing I’ve been involved with my entire career that makes me prouder, that I think is more sustaining, is more consequential than the work you all do.”

Biden previously visited the hotline as vice president in 2009 and as a senator three years earlier.

Hotline President Katie Ray-Jones said more than 100 staff members handle about 22,000 calls a month _ but that capacity issues meant they still were unable to get to almost 52,000 calls in 2012 alone.

The vice president said women can be held captive by their abusers and that often “the only voice that a woman in distress hears is yours and the folks here in Austin, Texas.”

The center has seen traffic on its website increase 30 percent during the last 12 months, and it is now receiving about a third of its contacts via Internet. Biden’s visit coincides with the unveiling of a new online chat service, thanks to a $250,000 donation from Verizon.

The chat service will only be available Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Central time, to start, but the hotline hopes to raise additional funding to eventually offer it around the clock.

Ray-Jones said the hotline previously set up a chat service pilot program and saw the number of victims reporting sexual violence spike. It’s now bracing for that trend to continue after the rollout of the full chat service.

“The Internet and a chat function offers an additional layer of privacy that you don’t have over the phone,” she said. “There’s another layer of vulnerability when I’m on a phone call and you can hear that I’m crying.”

Ray-Jones also said that in some cases, women who are abused don’t have access to phones or can’t call because their abuser closely monitors phone records. Chatting via Internet can overcome some of those hurdles.

The hotline receives $3.2 million annually in federal funding. Biden said he and President Barack Obama would like $4.5 million for it, but that because of across-the-board government spending cuts known as the sequester, it could fall to $2.9 million.

Biden also toured the facility, personally greeting all of the workers fielding calls. Staffers gave only their first names, citing the hotline’s confidentiality rules _ but one of the first people Biden hugged was Cassandra, who took the hotline’s 3 millionth call July 20.

Meanwhile, an employee named Cindy was still on a call when she saw Biden and began dancing on the balls of her feet with excitement. Upon finishing the call, she rushed forward when Biden smiled.

“I knew you’d remember!” she cried, enveloping him in a bear hug. “I’ve been here since 3:30 this morning waiting for you.”

Biden visited with actress Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” fame, who he described as being such a passionate advocate for the cause that he didn’t know how she had time for a day job. Hargitay also chatted with those fielding calls, and grew teary-eyed when she told them: “I’m so honored to be here.”

“You can stay!” cried one of the center employees, drawing chuckles.

According to the Texas Democratic Party, the most-recent state statistics show that in 2011 there were 177,983 incidents of domestic violence, and that 102 women were killed as the result. Some 11,833 Texas adults and 14,578 Texas children ended up in shelters because of domestic violence that year _ but 21 percent of adults seeking shelter were denied due to lack of space.


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