Mariska Hargitay is bringing necessary awareness to the fractures in rape kit testing in the U.S.
The new HBO documentary film I Am Evidence, produced by 53-year-old Hargitay, exposes the number of untested rape kits in the U.S. today, hundreds of thousands of which remain in police evidence storage rooms throughout the country.
“A lot of people just don’t know about this problem. And I was one of those people. And then you meet people like Kym Worthy and you see what she’s doing, you sort of can’t help but say, ‘What am I doing?’ ” says Hargitay, who travels to Michigan in the documentary to meet with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
During her speech in Detroit, Hargitay says that when she first met Worthy four years prior, the city had just discovered 11,000 untested kits, and it is the prosecutor’s goal to have each and every one tested.
Hargitay has long-played Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and recalls receiving letters from viewers who were victims of sexual abuse throughout the past two decades: “I’ve been playing Detective Benson on SVU for 15 years and when I first began, letters started coming in from viewers. These men and women were disclosing to me their stories of abuse. … A majority of them included some version of, ‘I’ve never told this to anybody before.’ ”
As a result of the letters, Hargitay says she “educated myself and I got involved.”
“To me, the rape kit backlog is the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes,” the actress continues.
The film will also feature stories of survivors and the law enforcement officials who are working through the backlog, as well as the positive effects of pursuing justice.
“I had absolutely no clue that people stock-piled rape kits. I had no clue that anyone would do that,” says Worthy.
The HBO documentary film I Am Evidence will debut April 24 at Tribeca Film Festival.
This story originally appeared on PEOPLE.