What You Need to Know About I Am Evidence
By Fiona Gibb
A panel following the film’s premiere presented key information on issues detailed in the doc, how survivors felt about sharing their stories, and the next steps to take to end rape kit backlog.
Survivors Ericka, Danielle, and Helena; prosecutor Kym L. Worthy, special investigator Nicole DiSanto, and retired police officer Michelle Brettin joined filmmakers Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir and producer Mariska Hargitay to discuss the film. Here, a few highlights from their passionate conversation.
When the rape kit backlog was discovered, it was uncharted, overwhelming territory.
“There was no roadmap. There was no protocol. There was nothing to tell us what to do,” said Michigan prosecutor Worthy. In 2009, she was shocked to uncover more than 11,000 untested rape kits in a police annex warehouse. But the issue wasn’t limited to Michigan — it was a nationwide concern, with a total estimated backlog of kits topping 400,000.
“When we first found our kits, they weren’t cataloged, they weren’t computerized,” recalled Worthy. “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.”
A lack of resources was partially to blame.
“Detroit would declare bankruptcy in the next few years after this was discovered. At the time, it would cost anywhere between $1,200 and $1,500 for a kit to be tested,” said Worthy. “And that’s just for the testing, not for the investigation or prosecutorial costs. We didn’t have the money.”
Sharing their stories has been therapeutic for the survivors.
The filmmakers interviewed 14 survivors for the film, but narrowed their focus to four women, whose stories of tracking their rape kits shaped the film’s narrative. Working on the film impacted their outlook — and spurred them to take action.
“It speaks to the power of being candid and sharing,” said survivor Helena. “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.”
Legislation is the answer.
The filmmakers hope to raise awareness of the rape kit backlog, and channel viewers’ outrage into action. “Joyful Heart Foundation has been working for so many years on a plan. It’s six pillars of legislation,” said Joyful Heart founder and president Hargitay. “I don’t know how many years it’s going to take [to end the backlog], but it’s doable. And so it’s exciting to have a roadmap to get there.”