Jacqueline Rosenthal’s short film, Backlog, puts the spotlight on an issue you may not know exists. In fact, no one except those betrayed by an incompetent system devoid of compassion really knows the damage the issue discussed truly can cause.
Based on actual events, the drama tells the 2006 story of sexual assault victim Mallory Newell (Jill Renner). The short film is bookended by Newell’s testimony before a 2010 Senate Judiciary Hearing. During her testimony, we flashback to a college party where she was drugged and raped by a sexual predator attending that same party.
The next morning Newell is forced to relive the event during police questioning and the hours-long rape kit procedure. As the investigation continues, Newell is ostracized from her friend group for “snitching.” When the assailant lawyers up, the police place Newell’s rape kit on the backlog, where years later, it remains unprocessed due to a lack of funds.
“…flashback to a college party where she was drugged and raped by a sexual predator at the party.”
Backlog will most like make you very angry at a justice system that cares very little about justice for women. Filmmaker Rosenthal delicately recounts Newell’s assault, the humiliating examination process, the social backlash against survivors, and the difficulty of prosecuting assailants for more reasons than just lack of witness testimony. The more significant issue at hand is the backlog of over 100,000 untested rape kits that still go unprocessed to this day.
The frustration comes not in the fact that politicians claim to care about the ramifications of sexual assault and are willing to throw money at it, but, as the film states, most of this earmarked money is never used. Jill Renner’s riveting performance shows how this lack of professionalism and ignoring the resources available harms survivors on a daily basis.
Backlog is highly effective in bringing awareness to the injustice against women. Sadly, this has not changed over the decades. Rosenthal also shows how the politicians who set the rules and priorities of justice don’t care unless it gets them votes.
For more information about Backlog and what can be done regarding the rape kit backlog, visit backlogfilm.org.