SAFER Act Will Help End DNA Backlog and Empower Rape Victims
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 13, 2011 — RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, today announced its strong support for the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act. The SAFER Act will lead to quicker elimination of the DNA backlog and establish better standards for future tracking, storage and use of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases. The SAFER Act also allows victims to monitor the progress of forensic evidence in their own case online, anytime.
The SAFER Act, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ted Poe (R-TX), updates the Debbie Smith Act, widely considered the most important anti-rape legislation ever passed by Congress. It will utilize money already put in place by the Debbie Smith Act, requiring no additional funding.
The bill creates the Sexual Assault Forensic Registry, which will track the status of DNA evidence collected in rape cases (commonly known as rape kits). Law enforcement officials will audit their own backlogs and will log up-to-date information on each rape case into SAFER, giving a real time view of evidence that has not been tested. The registry will not contain any personally identifying information about victims, but victims will be able to track the status of their own case through a unique ID number, providing a new level of empowerment.
In addition to empowering victims, SAFER will bring transparency to the DNA testing process, allowing the general public to compare testing times and backlogs state-by-state and city-by-city. It will also help the Justice Department target funding to the places with the biggest backlogs, increasing efficiency and ultimately saving money for taxpayers.
“The SAFER Act is the vital next step in our efforts to eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence. This bill will help us shine a light on the remaining backlog, and give victims access to the status of their forensic evidence. Ultimately, it will lead to testing more DNA evidence and taking more rapists off our streets," said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN. “It will also save taxpayers money, by helping the Justice Department more efficiently solve the testing backlog. It’s no surprise that the lead sponsors of the SAFER Act are two people who often lead Congressional efforts to fight sexual violence and assist victims: Rep. Ted Poe, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who authored the Debbie Smith Act.”
In introducing the bill, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney said, “We must help law enforcement eliminate the rape kit backlog once and for all. Despite extensive evidence that we are making progress on eliminating the backlog, growing demand and the lack of reliable data on the nature and size of the remaining backlog persist. My Debbie Smith Act improved funding for all DNA processing, but this bill would allocate a portion of that funding to help law enforcement get a handle on their existing rape kit backlog and to provide the resources to process and track it. The tools in this bill would empower victims -- and get rapists off the street that much faster.”
“Rape kits are sitting on shelves in precincts across the country while rapists walk free,” Rep. Ted Poe said. “We know there is a problem with rape kit backlogs, we just don’t know the extent of this problem. The SAFER Act gives localities the ability to audit their backlog and bring transparency and accountability to the testing process through the creation of a national online rape kit registry. It will inform victims, law enforcement and the public about the extent of the backlog throughout the country. It is my hope that the SAFER Act will bring to light the necessity of testing rape kits as quickly as possible in order to bring swift justice to violent criminals. Victims of violent crime should not be left in the dark about the status of their case and have to live in fear while the perpetrators go about their everyday lives.”
Supporters of the bill laud the fact that, in addition to transparency, the SAFER Act will increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system by more effectively targeting areas with the most significant backlogs, while making the entire process transparent to the public. The bill has strong bipartisan support, and RAINN is optimistic that it will move quickly through Congress.
About RAINN: RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country. The hotlines have helped more than 1.5 million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.