New documentary 'I am Evidence' highlights the systemic neglect of rape cases

'I am Evidence' brings together survivors, prosecutors and social workers fighting to bring attention to how rape cases are neglected in the US.

                            New documentary 'I am Evidence' highlights the systemic neglect of rape cases
(Image Source : HBO)

A new HBO documentary film titled 'I am Evidence' looks at the shocking neglect shown towards rape cases in the United States, specifically looking at the rape kits that go untested. The film, produced by Mariska Hargitay, shows the importance of these kits that often contain damning evidence that largely gets left on the shelf. It talks about the reasons why this neglect exists and the officers who are trying to take on the problem as well as the experiences of rape survivors who have been denied justice. 

A still from the HBO documentary (HBO)

In 2009, over 11,000 untested rape kits were unearthed in Detroit alone. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has been fighting an uphill battle to get all the kits tested. With her work nearing completion, the evidence collected has led to 50 convictions and the identification of over 780 suspected serial rapists. In Ohio, 5,000 backlogged kits were tested by a task force created by former Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty. Their work has led to the identification of at least 410 suspected serial rapists, connected to over than 1,127 victims.   

“There was no roadmap. There was no protocol. There was nothing to tell us what to do,” said Worthy. “When we first found our kits, they weren’t cataloged, they weren’t computerized. There were no police reports linked to the boxes we found. Nothing. We had to literally go through, one by one, and pull out any information we could.”

Worthy feels that the lack of resources might have contributed to the problem with the kits costing anywhere between $1200 and $1500 just to get tested. The filmmakers worked with 14 people before narrowing down their focus to four women who are largely grateful for having received a chance to share their experiences.

Filmmakers worked with 14 people before narrowing it down to 4 (HBO)

“It speaks to the power of being candid and sharing,” said Helena, one of the survivors. “I lived a lot of my life thinking I was the only one this had happened to, and shame lives in that darkness. When you tell your story, and you meet other people who’ve gone through the same thing, it just evaporates.”

Rape cases go largely unreported and have an abysmal arrest rate with a national average of around 20%. Rape kits contain DNA evidence that can be used to confirm a victim's statement, affirm a suspect's guilt or acquit the innocent. Unfortunately, these kits are largely untracked with few states requiring testing in rape cases and fewer still prohibiting destruction of evidence in rape cases. The filmmakers feel that only better legislation can provide a lasting solution to this issue.

Check out the trailer for the documentary here.