Things That Matter

Presidential Hopeful Kamala Harris Wants To Invest $1 Billion To Test The Shameful Backlog Of Rape Kits In The US

Ahead of her scheduled appearance on the Rachel Maddow show, Kamala Harris made a huge announcement on Thursday. The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee and former District Attorney said that if she wins the White House, she wants to invest $1 billion to eliminate the rape kit backlog nationwide. 

Kamala Harris’ plan is the “first of its kind of a 2020 Democratic candidate, the California Democrat’s plan would invest the money into states, allowing them to close their rape kit backlogs and prevent further buildups, within her first term” if elected into the Oval Office, according to CNN

The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee tweeted that her plan to close the nationwide rape kit backlog “would cost about $2 million less each year than what taxpayers have spent on Trump’s golf trips.” 

According to CNN, “the campaign linked this rollout to the news of Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire indicted this week on charges of sex trafficking and sexually assaulting teenage girls.” Earlier this week, when news broke, Harris also called for U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta –– who served as Miami U.S. Attorney and cut the plea deal for Epstein –– to resign. 

“It’s time we had someone in the White House who is committed to fighting for survivors, not protecting predators,” she tweeted.  

According to END THE BACKLOG, a national non-profit organization founded by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay with the mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, “every 92 seconds, someone is assaulted in the United States.” 

END THE BACKLOG also reports that it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in the police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country. This is what’s known as the rape kit backlog. But since most jurisdictions do not have systems in place for counting or tracking rape kits tested, END THE BACKLOG says “we cannot be sure of the total number of untested rape kits nationwide.” 

Rape kits are used by medical professionals to collect evidence while they examine survivors of sexual assault. The DNA extracted from rape kits is a useful tool to solve and prevent sexual assault crimes as well. Refinery29 reports that in the past decade, “about 225,000 known untested rape kits have been uncovered.” 

And while a growing number of states across the U.S. are fighting toward ending the backlog, there’s more work to be done. Since it costs an average $1,000 to $1,500 to test one rape kit, Harris’ plan to invest $1 billion to end rape kit backlog nationwide would hopefully make a powerful difference.  

In a statement to CNN, Harris said, “The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault, and rape. As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office. We need the same focus at the nationwide level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.” 

She also took to Instagram to announce her proposal of investing $1 billion to end rape kit backlog nationwide. In her caption, she wrote:

“In the last decade, roughly 225,000 untested rape kits have been uncovered. Too many survivors aren’t getting the justice they deserve. As president, I will close the nationwide rape kit backlog by the end of my first term.” 

According to USA Today, Harris’ proposal “states would receive additional funding for testing if they conduct an annual count and report of untested rape kits. The plan also would require law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits ‘within a short time frame,’ update victims who want to know about the status of testing of their rape kits and would increase the availability of rape kits for law enforcement, particularly in remote and rural areas.”  

CNN also interviewed RAINN President Scott Berkowitz said that Harris’ new proposal “would do wonders for ongoing efforts.”

“The backlog has been a huge and ongoing problem, we’ve been making progress on it over time, but having that large of a federal commitment would do wonders for testing the rest of the cases that haven’t been tested yet,” he said. 

“From the survivors’ standpoints, these kits are the result of really long, really unpleasant rape examinations where soon after the assaults, they are poked and prodded and they gather everything from the victim’s body and the clothing. It’s the last thing anyone wants to go through and to put yourself that and not have evidence even tested is a terrible statement and demoralizing,” he adds. 

Many women on social media were also open about how necessary and overdue this investment on the rape kit backlog would be. 

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The Election Is Just Around The Corner: Here’s Everything You Need To Know To Make Sure Your Vote Counts

Things That Matter

The Election Is Just Around The Corner: Here’s Everything You Need To Know To Make Sure Your Vote Counts

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Let’s face it, the 2020 election is shaping up to be one of the most confusing, alarming, yet consequential elections in history. With just a few weeks out from the election, we find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, historic unemployment, calls to defund the USPS and a nasty public relations battle which threatens to dismantle safe and secure ways to vote.

States are already working to change everything to accommodate the coronavirus, from stocking up on hand sanitizer to making arrangements to use NBA arenas as polling places. But the biggest difference is mail-in voting.

The president recently said he would reject emergency funding to the USPS because, “they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” Despite voting by mail himself and encouraging his own campaign supporters to do so, President Trump is claiming mail-in voting will lead to fraud, which many critics claim is an attempt to suppress the vote.

Despite the fight over defunding the USPS, there’s still time to ensure the election goes smoothly. Here are the five things you can do now to make sure every vote is counted in 2020:

1st: Register To Vote

Step one is the same regardless of whether you want to vote in-person or whether you want to vote by mail. You need to get registered. You cannot vote in any way without being on the rolls.

Start by going to your local elections website. To find the correct website, you can head to Vote.org, a nonpartisan web clearinghouse for voting information. Just tell the website what state you’re in and what county you’re in, and it will send you information to get registered.

2nd: Request An Absentee Ballot Now

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Despite Trump’s claims, there is no evidence that voting by mail leads to fraud. In reality, voting by mail is secure and safe. It also gives voters the opportunity to review their ballot in their own time and do research on candidates.

When voting by mail in many states, you have options for returning your ballot. You can drop it in the mail or bring it to your local election office before Election Day. In some states, voters have up to two weeks to drop their ballots off at their polling location or in a secure drop box in their county.

3rd: Have A Plan To Vote In-Person If You Can’t By Mail

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Studies show that having a voting plan increases a person’s likelihood of voting by nearly 10 percent. Check out your state’s in-person early vote and Election Day voting hours and determine what you need to bring with you to the polls. Before you go, look up your polling place — remember, it may have changed since the last time you voted! Finally, make a plan for getting to the polls. Companies like Uber will be offering free rides to the polls on Election Day. If you can, make voting a family affair or invite a friend to meet you at the polls. Remember: you must be in line by the time the polls closed to be allowed to vote.

4th: Sign Up To Be A Poll Worker

The United States is facing a widespread shortage of poll workers this year due to COVID-19, which could result in closing polling places and long delays for voters. Especially if there are issues with the USPS, we will need more — not fewer — volunteers at the polling places making sure everyone can vote safely, fairly, and efficiently. And if saving democracy isn’t enough, most poll workers also get paid!

5th: Help A Friend

Once you’ve figured out this system, and especially if you’re in a place where lots of people historically haven’t voted by mail, think about helping a friend or offering assistance on social media. You could really be a resource to people who either don’t know what to do or are intimidated by it.

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#VoteLikeAMadre Is Committing Latinas To Vote To Save The Planet For Their Children

Things That Matter

#VoteLikeAMadre Is Committing Latinas To Vote To Save The Planet For Their Children

@salmahayek / Instagram

The 2020 election is heating up. There are a lot of hot button issues at stake from reproductive rights and affordable access to healthcare to climate change and civil rights. The Latino Victory Project is using their resources to get Latinas to commit to voting with the understanding that their children will inherit the world they leave behind. Here’s how.

The #VoteLikeAMadre campaign is just that, voting like a mother.

The campaign is getting people, specifically Latinas, to vote for their children. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing people during the 2020 elections. That is why #VoteLikeAMadre is asking for people to pinky promise a better future for their children using their ability to vote.

The campaign hinges on the most important promise you can make to your kids: a pinky promise.

A pinky promise is so important with the children, you know. We all remember making our parents make pinky promises to make things happen for us to to give us things we really wanted. They were unbreakable promises that you constantly reminded your parents of making.

People are already taking the pledge to vote for candidates who have plans to combat climate change.

An estimated 1 billion people live in areas that are being affected by climate change. These people could all become climate refugees by 2050. That is one-seventh of the world’s population being displaced because of climate change. Our actions now can help to mitigate some of the damage that scientists expect.

People of color are among the most vulnerable communities when it comes to the negatives affects of climate change.

Latinos, as well as other communities of color, put a lot of importance on the climate crisis. Environmental justice is an issue that Latinos have been fighting for as our communities are often subjected to negative climate and environmental issues. According to a Yale study on climate change, Latinos are the most concerned about the climate crisis and its impact.

Early voters are already following through with their promises to fight for the climate.

Fighting for the climate is the same as fighting for the children. It is not a surprise that those who are younger will be the ones to inherit and live on the planet longer. Actions now can either ruin or save the planet and its climate for the generations to come.

“Many people assume that the only people who really care about climate change are white, well-educated, upper-middle-income, latte-sipping liberals, and it’s just not true,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication told PBS. “Actually, the racial and ethnic group that cares more about climate change than any other is Latinos.”

You can learn more about #VoteLikeAMadre, go to their website.

You can learn more about the campaign and the fight to save the climate here. Share with us about what you want to see most in the next leaders of the U.S. by commenting below.

READ: American Latinos United Launches Committee To Take Down President Trump In 2020

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