The American media has a reputation for beating a story to death. The mainstream media, in particular, has grown the reputation for focusing its attention on one issue. Many times these issues deal with civil rights violations. I am convinced the media needs to be the defender of the common good. The media should bring to light tragedies and violations. One thing that the media, all too often, forgets is that civil rights should not be an income issue. Defending a person’s rights cannot be decided based on its “viral” potential.

This is no more obvious than in the case of the rape kit backlog.

What is the backlog?

The fact that this question exists is astonishing in itself. In essence, the rape kit backlog consists of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits. These rape kits are found in police departments and other criminal storage facilities. If these kits are not requested for testing they just sit.

Why are they not being tested?

There are several answers to this question. Some people involved would say that the funding is just not available. The average kit costs between $1,000 and $1,500 to test according to the Joyful Heart Foundations website. Others would say that law enforcement may not take these crimes seriously.

This is from lack of interest in police agencies prioritizing sex crimes that are very hard to prosecute. It can also be due to prosecutors understanding that these crimes are hard to win.

Why is this a national crisis?

Beyond the obvious answer that everyone deserves justice, there are many other factors. First of all, let’s not forget that women make up more than half the population.

Beyond that, we as humans are all affected by this issue. Whether man or woman, we are all affected by women. Let us also not forget that not all rape victims are women. In fact, ten percent of rape victims are male. Most importantly, testing all rape kits leads to the convictions of serial rapists. Some studies show that over half of rape offenses are connected to serial offenders.

Why is this topic not being covered by the media?

I have researched this topic for over a year, at this point, in my career. I have attempted to write lengthy pieces for larger publications in the effort to spread awareness. Often times editors reject my pitch because of the content. The word rape is something that many readers do not want to stomach, unfortunately. This is my first published work but it will not be my last. I have not yet scratched the surface on this topic.

What can I do?

The most important thing that you can do is create awareness. The Joyful Heart Foundation is the best resource that I have found. Please visit their website to learn more about this American tragedy. You can also let your legislators know that you are not happy about this.

Great work is being accomplished in certain areas of the country to fix this issue. What New York and Detroit are accomplishing is a model moving forward.

I will now leave you with a quote from The Joyful Heart Foundation’s website. Mariska Hargitay is the founder of The Joyful Heart Foundation. You may know her better from her role on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." Please spread the word for this important cause.

"To me, the backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society. Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your case matters. For that reason, The Joyful Heart Foundation, which I founded in 2004, has made ending the rape kit backlog our #1 advocacy priority."