April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you or someone you know has questions or needs to talk, click here or talk to a BCM staff member.
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” // Esther 4:14
Sometimes it bothers me when people call me a “pageant girl." The phrase carries such a negative connotation most people associate with vanity and a self-serving individual. But then, I remember that one of my favorite women in the Bible was a pageant girl. Esther was given a crown for her beauty, and a great burden to save her people was placed on her shoulders. She actually risked her life to do what was right.
Now, I’m not at risk of being executed, nor am I actual royalty, but I do have a crown and an obligation to serve my community.
The four pillars of the Miss America Organization (MAO) are style, scholarship, success, and service, of which service is the most valued. As a contestant in MAO, I have a community service project (or platform as it was formerly called) on which my entire year of service stands: “End the Backlog”.
Now you may be asking, “Bethany, what backlog are we trying to end here?” Well, I’m so glad you asked.
Currently in the United States, there is estimated to be around 400,000 untested rape kits. To clarify, a sexual assault evidence kit, or rape kit, is a 4-6 hour long process in which a victim’s body is swabbed and photographed for evidence of their attacker. It is an excruciatingly long and invasive process, and often time the only hope a survivor has to gain justice.
The reason there is backlog is due mainly to a lack of funding for the issue and the absence of laws to require the testing to occur in a timely manner.
In the state of Alabama, there are currently no laws regarding rape kit testing. That means a survivor’s kit may sit in a warehouse never to even be ran through a DNA database.
Not only is this an injustice to the people who have been violated in the most heinous of ways, but it is a public safety issue. When the 11,000+ untested rape kits belonging to the Detroit, Michigan, police department finally had their DNA ran through CODIS (the national crime database), they found 2,616 matches, 821 of which were identified as serial rapists. 821 serial rapists in one city roaming free to continue wreaking havoc on innocent lives.
This is an issue that affects everyone. According to the Joyful Heart Foundation, someone becomes the victim of a sex crime every 98 seconds. That’s 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men, yet only 6 of every 1,000 rapists and abusers will be arrested. We have the solution to put these people away right at our fingertips, but we are choosing not to use it.
I chose this issue because this is something that has affected people I love. Whether you are aware of it or not, you know someone who is fighting for justice. As Christians, the Lord calls us to stand up for the vulnerable and oppressed. My platform gives us a very tangible way to do this. In obedience to the call to help those in need, we cannot ignore this issue.
Miss 9-1-1 Bethany Knight // Freshman
Vocal Performance // Hamilton, AL