Includes Bennet Bill to Reduce Rape Kit Backlog
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet hailed today’s renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which contains his bill to help reduce the national rape kit backlog.
The bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives this morning in a 286-138 vote and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. It passed the Senate on February 12.
“Today’s House passage of the Violence Against Women Act will provide critical resources for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – It’s long past time this bipartisan bill is finally renewed after expiring almost two years ago,” Bennet said. “In addition to helping survivors transition to stability, it also includes measures that will help reduce our national backlog of rape kits and improve safety for women on college campuses.”
Last week, Bennet was joined by victim rights advocates and law enforcement officials in a visit to the Crossroads Safehouse in Fort Collins, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, to highlight the need to renew VAWA.
“The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) is ecstatic to learn about today’s re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” Karen Moldovan, CCASA Program Manager, said. “Survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking must have access to critical support services following these horrific crimes. VAWA makes this possible. We are thankful to all the members of the Colorado delegation who put aside partisan politics, in order to support survivors and hold offenders accountable. We urge Colorado Legislators and citizens to join in the efforts to end violence against women by getting involved with your local rape crisis center.”
VAWA contains the SAFER Act, which Bennet originally introduced last year with Senator Jon Cornyn (R-TX). It is designed to help reduce the backlog of rape kits by helping state and local governments conduct audits of rape kits in law enforcement storage facilities by 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.
The Campus SaVE Act, which Bennet cosponsored, is also included in VAWA. It aims to increase safety on college campuses.
VAWA advances efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking through a combination of victim services and prevention and education programs. It was originally enacted as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It was reauthorized easily in 2000 and 2005, but expired in 2011. Last year, it was renewed by the Senate, but the House failed to take it up for a vote, or to offer its own version.