RAINN Supports Critical Senate Amendment to VAWA That Will Increase Transparency and Efficiency of Rape Kit Testing
Today RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, announced its strong support for the bipartisan Justice for Victims Amendment. It includes the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, a provision that will lead to quicker elimination of the DNA backlog, taking rapists off the streets and preventing future attacks.
The Justice for Victims Amendment, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), would strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and update 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 SAFER Act provision creates the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence 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 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, and will provide aggregate data to the public, giving an up-to-date snapshot of the state of the backlog on a local, state, and national level.
The SAFER Act provision will bring transparency to the DNA testing process, allowing the general public to compare 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.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas),
Scott Berkowitz, President & Founder
of RAINN and Camille Cooper of PROTECT
“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. Ultimately, it will lead to testing more DNA evidence and taking more rapists off our streets. It will also save taxpayers money, by helping the Justice Department more efficiently solve the testing backlog," said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN. “The purpose of VAWA is to eliminate sexual violence, and this amendment will strengthen the bill and bring us closer to that goal.”
“The nationwide rape kit backlog is a national scandal, one that many people just don’t know very much about, and it has serious consequences for sexual assault victims, said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). He continued, “There’s as many as 400,000 untested rape kits currently sitting in labs and in police station shelves across the nation – each one holding within themselves the potential to help solve a serious crime. And in the process take a rapist off the streets, and provide a victim with the justice they deserve.”
Supporters of the provision laud the fact that 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 process more transparent to the public.
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 Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local rape crisis centers across the country. The hotline has helped more than 1.7 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.