Today, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) along with Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced S. 80and HR 254 respectively, The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act of 2013. These companion bills will help law enforcement process rape kits and bring an end to the rape kit backlog.
"For far too long, an unacceptable national backlog of untested rape kits has compounded the pain for too many victims of sexual assault. Today, we take a significant step toward reducing that backlog and bringing swifter justice for millions of victims," said Senator Cornyn. "This bill enjoys broad, bipartisan support in Congress and getting this bill to the President's desk will be a top priority for me."
"The SAFER Act makes commonsense reforms to provide local law enforcement agencies with resources and flexibility to address the nation's rape kit backlog," said Senator Bennet. "No victim of sexual assault should have to wait for justice while critical DNA evidence sits untested on dusty shelves. I urge my colleagues in both houses of Congress to pass this bipartisan measure as quickly as possible."
"Victims of crime should not be denied justice because of a bureaucratic backlog. It is unconscionable to let evidence sit on dusty shelves in storage facilities when it could be used to put perpetrators where they belong--behind bars," said Congressman Poe. "It is my hope that the SAFER Act will bring to light the necessity of testing rape kits as quickly as possible in order to bring swift justice to violent criminals. Victims of violent crime should not have to live in fear while the perpetrators go about their everyday lives. Let's get this done. "
"The gridlock in Washington shouldn't create further backlog for innocent rape victims whose rape kits are awaiting processing," said Congresswoman Maloney. "Passing the SAFER Act doesn't use any new money or add to the deficit, while addressing a long overdue problem -- ending the rape kit backlog. These audit incentive grants will help State and local law enforcement agencies to address and understand their own rape kit backlogs. Having worked on this issue since 2001, I know that having data about the scope of the backlog is vital to addressing the problem. The bill also ensures that 75 percent of Debbie Smith funds be spent directly on untested DNA evidence. By processing this evidence, we can prevent rapists from attacking more innocent victims and ensure that the survivors and their families receive justice."
Currently, an estimated 400,000 rape kits sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the nation--each one of them holding the potential to solve a crime, imprison a rapist and provide a victim with the justice they deserve. The SAFER Act will help state and local governments conduct audits of rape kits with no new spending by better targeting existing funds under the Debbie Smith Act and ensuring more money goes directly toward testing rape kits.
The SAFER Act
Provides state and local governments with funding to conduct one year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession with no new spending.
Requires aggregate data from the audits to be posted online to provide accountability and track their progress.
Amends current law to require that at least 75% of Debbie Smith Act funds be spent directly on analyzing untested DNA evidence and increasing the capacity of labs.