Today U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN), introduced the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act to audit and reduce the backlog of untested rape kits sitting in the possession of law enforcement agencies across the country, which experts have pegged as high as 400,000. Endorsed by key national victims' rights groups, the deficit-neutral bill will provide funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and create a national registry to help track and prioritize untested rape kits.
"For far too long untested rape kits have been piling up due to limited resources prescribed by antiquated laws, denying justice and compounding the pain for an untold number of victims in cities across Texas and the nation," said Sen. Cornyn.
"Victims of sexual assault have already gone through enough--they shouldn't be further victimized by having to wait for justice to be handed out," said Sen. Bennet. "The SAFER Act addresses this problem by taking on the current rape kit backlog and strengthening the tools available to law enforcement so they can work more quickly and efficiently to bring offenders to justice."
"Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted," said a spokesperson for Sen. Kirk. "Victims deserve justice, not further victimization by the system designed to protect them. Illinois faces a horrific rape kit backlog with just 6% of reported rapes having kits tested over the past decade. This common-sense bill will give law enforcement nationwide better capabilities to track sexual assault cases and prevent these vicious crimes."
"It is unacceptable that there is a backlog of some 300,000-400,000 untested rape kits nationwide. Each of these kits could hold the evidence needed to solve a violent crime, to catch a criminal, and to help bring some sense of comfort to rape survivors," said Sen. Collins.
"The backlog of untested rape kits has denied justice for hundreds of thousands of victims and is simply unacceptable," said Sen. Klobuchar. "This legislation will help reduce this backlog and put criminals behind bars."
Full text of the legislation is attached.
The SAFER Act
The bill would amend current law to require that at least 75% of Debbie Smith Act funds be spent directly on either analyzing untested DNA evidence or increasing the capacity of labs.
The bill would also provide state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession.
Finally the bill would create a national registry to help track these audits, prioritize the analysis of untested rape kits and better target existing Debbie Smith Act appropriations.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV)
National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA)