The rate of sexual violence has fallen by more than half since 1993. And although there are many rape prevention programs today, the number still hasn’t dropped to zero. In fact, once every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, only a few victims choose to report this to the authorities, mainly because they are afraid of being assaulted again. But more importantly, many of them choose to remain silent because they believe that the police wouldn’t do anything to help. Why? Because how can one trust the police when thousands of rape kits simply go into oblivion? What are rape kits, you ask? Simply put, these are sets of items for gathering (and preserving) physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault.
According to Joyful Heart Foundation, it is estimated that tens of thousands of rape kits go untested across the US. This means that the survivors won’t get their justice anytime soon. With a lifetime mission to stop any kind of violence forever, the NGO joined forces with a new agency—Invisible Man, founded by former Y&R creative Rachel Howald—and launched a powerful and almost brutal PSA titled “Shelved,” as a part of the “End the Backlog” campaign.
Through the national initiative, the organization aims to encourage legislative reforms to treat this issue more seriously. And just to make sure that the NGO’s voice echoes in the officials’ minds, it crafted a one-minute-long video that shows the importance of using these kits in helping rape victims restore their dignity and find justice, while brutally highlighting the trust in police.
Getting a rape kit exam is more invasive than one can think. Usually, it may take hours to complete, during which the victim undergoes an exhaustive examination to collect evidence. Then, the evidence kit is turned over to the police for further investigation. Many victims assume that once these tests reach the police’s hands, the attackers will be caught very soon.
Unfortunately, due to inadequate resources and lack of funds, thousands of rape kits remain untested and are kept somewhere in a warehouse for weeks, months, and even years. This means that thousands of rapists remain free and possibly ready to commit other sexual crimes.
“When a person is sexually assaulted and chooses to undergo the invasive four-to-six-hour evidence collection examination at the hospital, they expect the kit will be tested and the evidence used to prosecute the attacker. The public expects the same,” says Joyful Heart’s managing director, Sarah Haacke Byrd. Unfortunately, that is not the case, yet!
The campaign is also supported by a website, where viewers can learn more about the backlog. There, an interactive map of the US invites users to find more about the amount of kits that remain untested, and what’s the testing and reform status of each state. Moreover, by clicking on any of the states, users can document the issue by reading the latest news related to this social problem.
The haunting film was directed by award-winning director Ellen Kuras, a filmmaker who is best known for her work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Much like the Hollywood movie, the Shelves spot follows the same bizarre concept, in which oblivion and the pain of loss take the main stage.
The short video depicts victims as rape kits, which sadly remain left in a warehouse where only dust keeps them company and listens to what they have to say. Within the spot, a woman, who plays the role of a rape kit, describes the details of the person who assaulted her as she is carried by a forklift.
She mentions his weight, height, hair and eyes color. She remembers he had a weird scar on his right cheek and a deep, scratchy voice. Tears drown her eyes, but as broken as she feels, a drop of hope embraces her as she says “All those details plus the DNA, is enough evidence for you to catch him, right… Right?” But her expectations get slowly ruined, as the forklift’s driver places her on a shelf, where other thousand victims wait for their cases to be solved.
Client: Joyful Heart Foundation
Founder and President: Mariska Hargitay
Managing Director: Sarah Haacke Byrd
Vice President, External Affairs: Lisa Winjum
Agency: Invisible Man (in partnership with Viacom Velocity)
Founder- Rachel Howald
Executive Producer – Lisa Goore
Art Director – Rachel Howald
Copywriter – Rachel Howald
Executive Producer – Niels Schuurmans
Producer – Tony Calandra
Production Company – The Corner Shop
Director – Ellen Kuras
Production Company Executive Producer – Anna Hashmi
Production Company Producer- Jessica Miller
Editorial Company – Rock Paper Scissors NY
Executive Producer – Eve Kornblum
Producer – Lisa Barnable
Editor – Chris Mitchell
Assistant Editor – Tania Mesta
VFX/Flame – Eddie Reina
Colorist – Sofie Borup
Producer- Alexandra Lubano
Music Consultant – Paul Greco
Music – “The Light” by The Album Leaf
Sound Mixing – Tom Jucarone @ Sound Lounge