HUNTINGTON - A festive charitable event is scheduled later this month in Huntington to raise awareness and money to help eliminate the nationwide sexual assault kit backlog.
The End the Backlog Benefit will take place at the V Club, 741 6th Ave. in Huntington, on April 26. A $7 donation is requested for entry to the 21-and-up show.
It will start at 7 p.m. with a live recording of true crime literature podcast "Indifferently Depraved Book Club" before a performance by the Po' Folks Cabaret, which will feature belly dancing, a sideshow and burlesque performance. The evening will close out with a roster of area musicians like Pepper Fandango, The Travelling Killers, Quilt Monsters, and Emmalea Deal.
Throughout the evening a raffle will be held for local products, services and art.
Event organizer Penny Maple said events like this are important because sexual assault victims deserve better results than what they are getting, including swifter and more thorough actions.
"Until every state is operating at a maximum level of efficiency with prompt turnover and no backlog, we really can't rest on this," she said.
According to End the Backlog, an initiative of the Joyful Heart Foundation, more than 225,000 untested rape kits have been uncovered nationwide, with about 2,400 of those coming from West Virginia.
Joyful Heart was started by "Law and Order: SVU" actor and activist Mariska Hargitay with the goal of healing, educating and empowering survivors. End the Backlog was created as a cornerstone of that fight to shine a light on the rape kit backlog across the United States.
Maple said she had not even heard of the organization until a couple years ago when a community of "Murderinos," fans of the true crime podcast, "My Favorite Murder," introduced her to the cause.
While West Virginia already has funding to end its backlog, Maple said End the Backlog works as a "teach a man to fish" situation that goes beyond elimination of the backlog.
"Until every state is operating at a maximum level of efficiency with prompt turnover and no backlog, we really can't rest on this," she said. "End the Backlog attacks the issue from multiple ends, gathering data and statistics and working to enact new legal standards as well as connecting funding sources to areas with backlogs."
The combination of all those things helps eliminate future backlogs from occurring, she said.
As for the unique sets expected to perform at the show, Maple said she enjoys bringing something different to the stage.
"We have been able to expand the scale of the event this year," she said. "It has a bigger roster, a bigger venue, bigger raffle prizes and we have tons of local art and music from artists like Debra Rayhill and musicians like the Renfields."
Maple said she hopes the second year of the event results in at least $1,000 to donate to the cause, but informing the community is an important goal, as well.
"I hope that we really get the information and activism out to people," she said. "That they will contact their legislators and urge them to pass standards like Senate Bill 39, a proposed bill to establish a Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights here in West Virginia."
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.