Mariska Hargitay

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay is used to helping rape victims on TV, but now she's lending her support to an off-screen initiative.

Hargitay held a news conference in Detroit Monday to raise awareness about the backlog of rape kits across the state, which are unable to be processed because the county prosecutor's office is "severely understaffed" due to budget cuts, the Detroit News reports.

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Some of the more than 10,000 rape kits that remain unprocessed in the county are from 25 years ago, past the statute of limitations, the News reports.

Now Hargitay and her organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, are stepping in to help with the backlog issue — which the actress described in Monday's news conference as "the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes in our country," The Associated Press reports. She and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy introduced legislation that would put processes and timelines in place for the processing of rape kits, and allow for greater input from victims.

"Every day in the United States women and men take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police," Hargitay said Monday, according to the AP. "And because of what those individuals have suffered, their bodies are crime scenes. They're living, breathing, feeling crime scenes from which doctors and nurses collect evidence in a sexual assault collection kit."

Find out more about the initiative here.