Mariska Hargitay knows she’s not a cop. She just plays one on TV. But her role as Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU” has brought her in contact with thousands of women who have written her letters about their sexual abuse. She founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides aid to such women. She has also produced and appears in the powerful documentary “I Am Evidence” (7 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) about the scandal of unexamined rape kits stockpiled by police departments all over the country.
The film is as blunt as it is angry. We learn early on that the city of Detroit alone had more than 10,000 sealed rape kits awaiting investigation. The story is both statistically shocking and personally grim. After a woman endures the horrors of sexual assault, she is encouraged to submit to the indignity of a very probing examination, so authorities can gather DNA evidence to track down the perpetrator.
But we learn that after these dual indignities, the evidence is often simply shelved and ignored. To add insult to injury, Detroit’s kits were stored in a condemned warehouse without windows. It was as if the city’s officials were contemptuously exposing the evidence to the elements.
As one Detroit activist observes, there is no more powerful proof that the system just doesn’t care about women.
Even more harrowing than the sight of the derelict warehouse is the prevalence of this practice. Folks in Detroit thought this was merely a product of their beleaguered city’s dysfunction. But “I Am Evidence” lists city after city where evidence is gathered and forgotten. In total there is said to be more than 400,000 such kits gathering dust.
This is not the first time Hargitay has tried to make this point. The existence of thousands of unexamined kits was the subject of a “Law & Order: SVU” back in 2010. That fictional episode and the facts documented in “I Am Evidence” make the same grim point: If Americans cared about rape and cared about women, this wouldn’t be happening.
- Other nonfiction offerings include the “Independent Lens” documentary “What Lies Upstream” (9 p.m., PBS) about unregulated chemical dumping in West Virginia, threatening the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands.
- The multipart series “It Was Him: The Many Murders of Ed Edwards” (8 p.m., Paramount, TV-14) interviews a man who contends that his grandfather was the Zodiac Killer, the slayer of JonBenet Ramsey and other famous victims.
- Hailed by critics in the United Kingdom, the police dramedy “No Offence” begins streaming on Acorn. Created by Paul Abbott (“Shameless” and “State of Play”) and starring Joanna Scanlan (“Requiem”).
- Angels and demons on “Lucifer” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
- Ghost-sightings on “The Resident” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
- The captain’s mind wanders on “The Terror” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
- The gang navigates a minefield on the season finale of “Scorpion” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- A stab at normalcy on “Good Girls” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
- Rapid developments prove unsettling on “The Crossing” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Kevin steps in it on “Kevin Can Wait” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... The top 24 perform on “The Voice” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... Twelve finalists perform on “American Idol” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Laurie Metcalf guest-stars on “Supergirl” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG) ... Secrets abound on “Man With a Plan” (7:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
Vehicular mayhem on “Superior Donuts” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Liv feels frisky after eating the brains of a “player” on “iZombie” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... A shelter from a marital storm on “Living Biblically” (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
© 2018 United Feature Synd.