Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet's SAFER Act became law today, as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was signed by President Obama this afternoon.
Bennet cosponsored the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act with his Republican colleague, Senator John Cornyn of Texas. The two initially introduced the bill to the Senate last April and reintroduced it in this session of Congress in January.
"After living though the horrendous trauma of a sexual assault and then the invasive rape kit exam, victims should not have to wait for justice to be served while DNA evidence sits untested," Bennet said. "Now that the SAFER Act is law, police and crime labs will have greater flexibility to use the resources available to them to test rape kits. Ultimately, it means more kits will get tested and more criminals will be brought to justice."
"An unacceptable national backlog of untested rape kits has compounded the pain for too many victims of sexual assault over the years," Cornyn said. "Today, we take a significant step toward reducing that backlog. I'm pleased with the wide bipartisan support the SAFER Act received and with the President's signature today, law enforcement can begin working immediately to test outstanding kits and see that justice is served."
The SAFER Act would help reduce the national backlog of rape kits by helping state and local governments conduct audits of rape kits in law enforcement storage facilities and increasing available resources for crime labs to process those kits.
Last August, Bennet toured the Denver Crime Lab with leaders from victim's rights groups and last month he toured the Crossroads Safehouse in Fort Collins to discuss the bill and raise awareness about the issue. According to victim's rights groups, there is a national backlog of at least 400,000 rape kits sitting untested across the country.
The bill does not add to the deficit. It repurposes existing federal funds under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to help reduce the number of backlogged crime scene DNA evidence, such as rape kits.
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV)
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)
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)