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. 

Woman Claims Lyft Charged Her For A Ride That Resulted In Her Severe Gang Rape

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Woman Claims Lyft Charged Her For A Ride That Resulted In Her Severe Gang Rape

Being a woman means you’re always in danger. Predators lurk everywhere and for Alison Turkos, unfortunately, a Lyft ride home would become every woman’s worst nightmare. Turkos, among dozens of other women, is suing Lyft after she says her driver kidnapped her and gang-raped her along with two men. Turkos believes that Lyft is obstructing justice by not cooperating with law enforcement. 

Moreover, she believes that the driver who raped her has continued to work for the company for years. This is her story. 

Alison Turkos tells her story in Medium

“In the fall of 2017, I got into a Lyft after a night out with friends. All I wanted to do was get home safely and go to bed. This was supposed to be the safer option than walking home or taking the subway late at night alone. What should have been a 15-minute drive, turned into an 80-minute living nightmare,” Turkos wrote in an essay for Medium

Turkos says her Lyft driver kidnapped her at gunpoint, drove her across state lines, and the driver along with two other men (at least) raped her. 

Apologies for the “inconvenience”

Turkos reported the kidnapping to Lyft within 24 hours. Turkos claims they merely apologized for the inconvenience. 

“Lyft ‘apologized for the inconvenience that I’d been through’ and informed me they ‘appreciated the voice of their customers and were committed to doing their best in giving me the support that I needed,’” she wrote. 

She had to pay the $12.81 in carfare. Turkos says the driver who raped her has continued to work for Lyft in the years since. This to her is all the evidence she needs to sue — not to get justice for herself — but to prevent future incidents like it. Lyft must be held accountable. 

Lyft’s inaction is triggering

Turkos reported the rape and kidnapping to the police two days after. But Turkos says the fact that her driver is still out there living consequence-free despite all the evidence (GPS phone tracking, customer service transcript, police reports, DNA of two men), has worsened her PTSD. 

“Lyft’s failure to remove the driver from the app, and allow him to continue driving under a new name and profile has not only exacerbated my PTSD and inability to feel safe, but has also placed other passengers lives at risk,” she wrote. “How many other passengers has this man harmed while on Lyft’s payroll in the two years since I reported?”

Lyft’s Statement

Lyft’s position on the matter? Rape happens to women all the time so it’s not their fault. Another insult to sexual assault survivors everywhere.

“What this rider describes is awful, and something no one should have to endure,” a Lyft spokesperson told Motherboard. “The unfortunate fact remains that one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives — behavior that’s unacceptable for our society and on our platform. In this case, the driver passed the New York City TLC’s background check and was permitted to drive.” 

Lyft has since added 14 new safety features including in-app emergency assistance and background check monitoring. But this isn’t an isolated incident. Last month, Lyft faced another lawsuit by 14 women who say they were raped by Lyft drivers. This would bring the total to 26 Lyft users since August 1, 2019, who claim Lyft failed to protect them from sexual violence. 

Why Turkos is suing Lyft

Turkos, along with the many other women believe Lyft is purposefully stone-walling their cases. By suing they hope to challenge the processes by which Lyft handles sexual assault claims. 

“The plaintiffs accuse the company of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and failing to adequately screen potential drivers,” according to CBS. Moreover, multiple women, not only Turkos, claim that the drivers who raped them were allowed to continuing working for the company or that Lyft would not tell them if the driver had been terminated. 

“Lyft’s failure to properly investigate the failures of their system that lead to my kidnapping and rape has severely hampered the ongoing criminal investigation,” Turkos wrote. “Lyft’s feeble public response to viral tweets and other lawsuits has made a mockery of me and the other victims who have come forward. We don’t want partial refunds. We don’t want $5 credits to continue using your service.” 

It cannot go without saying: believe women. There is no glory in coming forward as a rape survivor just more triggering events and more scrutiny. Women do not come forward for attention, they come forward for justice. 

A Gun-Loving Bro Came For Kamala Harris On ‘Jimmy Fallon’ And She Wasn’t Having Any Of It

Things That Matter

A Gun-Loving Bro Came For Kamala Harris On ‘Jimmy Fallon’ And She Wasn’t Having Any Of It

Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Kamala Harris appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she slow-jammed the news and dunked on a gun-loving college bro. The audience was made entirely of college students who, during one segment, got to ask Harris a question. When someone tried to challenge Harris’ position on gun control, she was happy to set him straight on the matter.

While the United States does not have the most gun violence of any nation, it has the most gun violence of any developed nation, and honestly, it isn’t faring too well when compared to developing countries. 

“The United States has the 28th-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world: 4.43 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017 — far greater than what is seen in other wealthy countries,” according to NPR. “And the national rate of gun violence in the U.S. is higher than in many low-income countries.” 

That time a college student tried to come for Kamala Harris

During a segment, Senator Harris and Fallon took questions from an audience of college students. A bro from Fordham University named Andrew tried to come for Senator Harris’ wig. Now, regardless of how you feel about her, one thing is objectively true about Harris — she is a no-nonsense, cunning prosecutor who can think quick on her feet. I would not try her. 

“Do you believe in the mandatory buyback of quote, unquote, ‘assault weapons,’ and whether or not you do, how does that idea not go against, fundamentally, the Second Amendment?” Andrew asked.

It was at this moment that I began to fear for Andrew’s life. Harris was happy to state her position. 

“Great question, I do believe that we need to do buybacks, and I’ll tell you why,” Harris said. “Let’s be clear about what assault weapons are, they have been designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly, they are weapons of war, with no place on the streets of a civil society, I’ve seen assault weapons kill babies and police officers.”

Harris said she plans to take executive action regarding gun control if elected President and if congress fails to ban the importation of assault weapons, pass universal background check requirements, and mandatory buybacks. 

Harris dunks on bro using his own experiences

Then Harris led Andrew through a little mental exercise by reminding him of what country he lives in — the one where mass shootings are a regular occurrence, you know that one. 

“How many of you guys, as college students, had to have a drill during high school or middle school or elementary school or even in college were you learning about how you need to hide in the closet or crouch in a corner in the event that there’s a mass shooter roaming the hallways of your school?” Harris asked.

Of course, Andrew’s hand went up along with everyone else’s. Shooter drills are the new normal for American students.

“Look at that, look at that. And here’s the thing, it terrorized you. It is traumatizing. I don’t want that any of our children should have to sit in class when you should be paying attention to what’s happening in the front of the classroom, letting your mind open up to the wonders of science, math or our, or whatever, and instead have to be worried about who’s going to come banging through the door carrying some kind of weapon,” Harris said. 

Leaders need to lead on gun violence

“Leaders need to lead on this issue. So I’m telling you, when elected, if Congress fails to act, I will give them 100 days to get a bill on my desk for signature, if they do not do what I will put in place, by executive action, a comprehensive background check requirement and a ban on the assault weapons and importations of assault weapons in our country,” Harris said, finishing her speech with. “I’m done.” 

Andrew was no longer standing, the crushing weight of being owned on national television seemed to have taken the wind out of him. He didn’t need to take several seats just the one to realize the audience, who was roaring with applause at Harris, did not share his ignorant beliefs. 

Support for gun control is at an all-time high

It should be said that most Americans don’t share Andrew’s beliefs. Gun control has overwhelming bipartisan support. People are pretty against themselves randomly being killed by gun violence, which makes sense. So while it is the GOP preventing legislation from passing, it is not for a lack of support from Republican constituents! This is why Democrats, Republicans, and Independents should be demanding that the Republican Senate pass legislation — oh wait, we all have been for years they just don’t care if we live or die as long as those donations from the National Rifle Association keep coming in.