With more than 800 million websites on WordPress alone, it should come as no surprise that some incredible organizations are using it to serve their communities. Here at Pressable, we are grateful for the opportunity to provide many of them with managed WordPress hosting.
Our “Hosting For Good” series aims to highlight some of these organizations that use technology to give back to the community. Their work is changing the world, and we’re excited to share their stories with you. We hope the series encourages you and inspires your work with WordPress and beyond.
Right now, an estimated 100,000 rape kits are waiting for forensic testing. At one point, that number was close to 400,000. Those kits contain evidence gathered in physical examinations of assault survivors. They may provide law enforcement with clues about who the perpetrators are, but instead, they’re sitting in storage somewhere.
Thanks to End the Backlog, an initiative of the Joyful Heart Foundation, started in 2010, the number of backlogged rape kits is much smaller than it once was. End the Backlog originally focused on identifying the scope of the backlog. While that work is ongoing, End the Backlog today aims to get every state to adopt its Six Pillar plan to clear the backlog and ensure this situation never happens again.
The group’s WordPress website plays a critical role in awareness and advocacy of this cause and support for survivors.
How Did This Happen?
The first question you likely have when hearing about the rape kit backlog is, “How did this happen?” How did we get here in the first place?
Ilse Knecht, End the Backlog’s Director for Policy and Advocacy, said the backlog exists for multiple reasons, starting with the criminal justice system and law enforcement not making sexual assault a priority or historically considering it the violent crime it is.
Most states haven’t always had mandatory testing. In fact, no states had it until 2010. Before mandatory testing, a single detective would often decide whether to test a rape kit. The decision often was about whether the detective believed the survivor or thought the case would likely result in an arrest, Knecht said.
“It’s usually case closed before it’s even open,” she said.
It’s frustrating and angering, but there is a way to resolve this problem.
“It’s fixable,” Knecht said. “That’s what keeps us going. How many social issues of this enormity are actually fixable? This one is.”
The Six Pillars
Adhering to End the Backlog’s Six Pillars can help solve the rape kit testing problem. The Joyful Heart Foundation created the six pillars with input from more than 75 experts from across the nation. When a state adopts the pillars, its backlog is eliminated and future backlogs are prevented.
The Six Pillars are:
- Implement an annual statewide inventory of kits.
- Mandate the submission and testing of all backlogged kits.
- Mandate the testing of all new kits.
- Create and use a statewide kit tracking system.
- Implement mechanisms for survivors to easily find out about the status of their kits.
- Allocate appropriate funding to submit, test, and track kits.
Before this approach, the scope of the backlog problem in the U.S. was unknown. Law enforcement agencies weren’t sure how many untested kits there were, where they were, or what to do about it. Many survivors assumed their case was being handled or the evidence from their rape kit was a dead end, Knecht said.
End the Backlog now works to get legislators in all 50 states and Washington D.C. to adopt the six pillars and enact laws to adhere to their principles. The organization’s website is key to this mission.
How End the Backlog’s Website Supports this Work
The End the Backlog website is a national repository for information on rape kit testing. It’s the only place you can find this information compiled. The site serves as an awareness tool for the backlog issue and helps hold criminal justice system actors accountable. Knecht said:
“It’s become a place to highlight states that are working on reform and states that have a lot to do to end the backlog. We know that advocates and legislators look at it and look at where they are in the standings. It spurs them to action.”
The site provides information for advocates, advising on their state’s backlog numbers, whether they’ve adopted the Six Pillars, and recent state news on rape kit testing.
“It’s a place for survivors to come and get information about this issue, and the site helps legislators, advocates, and law enforcement do their jobs,” Knecht said.
Although she hopes some day the need for the site will be obsolete, Knecht said it’s doing its job right now.
“It’s resonating with people,” she said. “They find it useful, which is essential. That means it’s a helpful tool that they’re using to end the backlog.”
The New, More Helpful Website
End the Backlog launched a new version of its website on WordPress in 2022 with Pressable as its managed hosting service. The new site is easier to manage on the backend and more interactive. It’s also more responsive and runs faster, making it an excellent resource, whether you’re looking for information about your state’s backlog numbers or doing more historical research on the issue. Knecht said:
“It’s a lot easier to share and tell stories on this platform than it was before. To gain awareness, you have to be able to hit people in their hearts. This website effectively tells a story that makes people want to act. It also makes survivors understand that they’re being heard… that we see them. It sends a giant message that these kits matter, and to survivors that they matter.”
The End the Backlog team says the new site helps them share information much more easily and update the public-facing data more quickly across the entire site. It’s also more visually appealing, intending to reflect hope.
“I wanted to recognize progress being made with the new site’s visuals, reflecting the growth, hope, and possibility,” Knecht said.
Ending the Backlog
End the Backlog identified the extent of the rape kit testing backlog across the country. Now they’re working to get justice for sexual assault survivors by asking legislators to adopt accountability standards that clear the backlog in their states once and for all.
This national issue would not be in the public light or documented in one place without End the Backlog’s WordPress website. It’s the repository for information about rape kit backlogs. Pressable is proud to play even a small role in supporting this organization’s work toward justice for sexual assault survivors.
Visit the End the Backlog website to learn how to take action in your state.