The “backlog” of untested rape kits — a package used to collect DNA evidence following a sexual assault — is estimated to include well over 100,000 kits in the U.S., according to the Joyful Heart Foundation. These untested kits leave survivors of sexual assault in limbo without answers or progress in the criminal investigations, an issue playwright and actor Heather Marlowe experienced firsthand in 2010.
“A police inspector told Marlowe she should expect the results from the evidence being tested against a criminal database ‘any day now,’” reported the San Francisco Chronicle. “Yet after more than two years — including dozens of phone calls to the San Francisco Police Department and Marlowe’s own amateur sleuthing in person and online to try to identify her rapist — she was still waiting.”
Marlowe began developing a play based on her experience, titled “The Haze,” in 2012. The production traveled across the country before arriving at Willamette on Wednesday, March 19. Marlowe’s production is a one-woman show that uses a combination of dark humor and more serious reflection to spread awareness about a problem that is affecting sexual assault survivors around the U.S..
“As president, I am trying to spark more conversation about sexual assault education, prevention and activism,” ASWU President Akerah Mackey-Watkins (’19) explained. “The Green Fund, [Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion] and ASWU have supported this project due to our joint commitment to helping the campus start having these hard conversations and to create a better culture on Willamette’s campus.”
While Marlowe’s personal experience was with the San Francisco Police Department, the number of untested rape kits across the country is disturbingly high. Though referring to herself as a “reluctant activist” when discussing the impact of the play, “The Haze” is a work with the potential to expose this issue to audiences that may not be aware of the situation and its impact on victims of sexual violence.