Senate Passes Bennet, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Heller Bill to Fight Nationwide Rape Kit Backlog

Washington, D.C. - The Senate this week passed the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Dean Heller (R-NV) that will reauthorize, strengthen, and extend the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting program to help fight the nationwide rape kit backlog.

"Law enforcement must have access to resources and training to process rape kits, so survivors of sexual violence receive the thorough and fair investigations they deserve," Bennet said. "Colorado worked to end its backlog of rape kits in 2015 - a process that took two years and millions of dollars. The SAFER Act will help other states make the same progress and ensure justice is served. We applaud the SAFER Act's passage in the Senate, and we encourage its speedy passage in the House."

In addition to reauthorizing this program, the legislation would ensure pediatric forensic nurses are eligible for training, highlighting the need for pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners in responding to children suffering from abuse.

In 2013, Bennet and Cornyn authored the Sexual Assault Forensic Registry Act, a law creating the SAFER Program, which has helped law enforcement reduce the rape kit backlog through existing funds under the Debbie Smith Act. The legislation increased the amount of these funds spent on untested kits by 35 percent and allowed 5-7 percent to be used on SAFER program audits. It helps state and local law enforcement agencies address both the laboratory and storage backlogs by providing funding to conduct one-year audits of untested sexual assault evidence, which has uncovered tens of thousands of untested rape kits on shelves and in labs across the nation.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined as cosponsors of the legislation.

A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.