The U.S. Senate today passed a bill authored by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to help reduce the national backlog of rape kits.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, was included in the larger Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that the Senate passed today by a bipartisan vote of 78 - 22. The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives.
“Victims of sexual assault have already gone through enough. They shouldn’t have to wait for justice to be served, while critical DNA evidence sits untested on dusty shelves,” Bennet said. “Today’s passage of the SAFER Act brings us one step closer to helping local law enforcement agencies address our nation’s rape kit backlog and bring criminals to justice.”
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 funds for crime labs to process those kits. It would also establish advisory protocols and practices around handling crime scene DNA evidence, prioritize the analysis of untested rape kits, and better target existing resources.
Bennet and Cornyn reintroduced the SAFER Act to the Senate last month. A companion bill was reintroduced to the House of Representatives at the same time by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Bennet and Cornyn originally introduced the SAFER Act to the Senate last May. It passed with unanimous support at the end of the year. A slightly different version passed in the House. However, Congress did not work out the differences between the two bills before the 112th Session adjourned and they expired.
In August, Bennet toured the Denver Crime Lab with leaders from victim’s rights groups 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 better target reducing the backlog of 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)