Name of law: Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act

Why it matters: The SAFER Act supports efforts to audit, test, and reduce the backlog of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases and bring perpetrators to justice.

When it passed: 2013



The backlog of unanalyzed sexual assault forensic exam evidence is often referred to as the DNA backlog or “rape kit backlog.” One major source of the backlog is forensic evidence that was collected but never sent to crime labs for analysis. This is sometimes referred to as the “hidden backlog." RAINN worked with Congress to pass the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act of 2013, as part of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, to audit, analyze, and account for the immense backlog of untested rape kits across the country.


1. The SAFER Act increases funding to test and analyze untested DNA evidence and offender samples.

The SAFER Act increases funding to process untested DNA evidence, allocating at least 75% of all Debbie Smith grant funds toward this goal. These funds must be designated for costs associated with testing DNA evidence, including employee trainings and equipment for DNA laboratories to increase testing capacity. In the past, crime labs have received a smaller percentage of funds. The SAFER Act raises the minimum level funding of DNA testing and capacity building activities.


2. Crime labs receive funding to audit and account for the backlog of untested DNA samples.

The SAFER Act helps to account for untested DNA samples by allocating a percentage of Debbie Smith grant funds specifically for the purpose of auditing the backlog of DNA samples in crime labs. To receive these funds, potential grant recipients must submit plans for performing the audit and include a good-faith estimate of the existing number of untested samples. Recipients must also submit regular reports (every 60 days for a period of twelve months) to the Department of Justice listing the number of samples and the proposed action or status for each. The audit should be completed within a year.


3. The FBI must set clear standards to collect and process DNA evidence in a timely manner.

Under the SAFER Act, The Director of the FBI must develop and publish a description of protocols and practices that set standards for processing DNA evidence. The FBI must also provide assistance and training for local and state governments to implement these practices consistently across the board. In order to ensure accountability, the Attorney General must submit to Congress an annual report about grant recipients, any audit deadline extensions they have been given, and the processing status of their backlogs.


Read the full text.

Survivor Story: Julie Weil


Julie Weil was abducted and raped in the presence of her two young children. She had a sexual assault forensic medical exam ("rape kit"), and the perpetrator was caught several months later through a DNA match. Weil credits supportive law enforcement officers and medical personnel for her ability to report the crime, testify at the perpetrator's trial, and ultimately achieve justice—a process that took more than four years. Julie helped RAINN advocate for SAFER by meeting with lawmakers, recruiting co-sponsors, and testifying before Congress.

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