Critical Rape Kit Backlog Funding Passed By Congress

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate voted to renew the Debbie Smith Act, which has increased the use of DNA and has led to more than 192,000 DNA matches in CODIS (the FBI’s DNA database system). The bill had already passed the House, and is now headed for the president to be signed into law.

Watch Sen. Cornyn speak on the Debbie Smith Act’s Senate passage here.

The Debbie Smith Act:

  • Is the largest federal effort to eliminate the rape kit DNA backlog. Since 2011, there has been an 85% increase in demand for testing. This increased demand places a heavy burden on state and local crime labs.
  • Authorizes Congress to allocate $151 million dollars annually to state and local crime labs for DNA and rape kit testing.
  • Expired on September 30, making the passage of this legislation even more critical.

According to the FBI, as of October 2019, CODIS has produced over 488,318 hits, assisting in more than 477,812 investigations. According to the National Institute of Justice, 42% of CODIS hits are the direct result of Debbie Smith Act funding.

“By renewing the Debbie Smith Act, Congress has decided to stand with survivors. This bill will help take thousands of rapists off the streets and is critical to ensuring that more survivors attain justice,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. “We are pleased with the Senate’s vote today and are grateful for the leadership of Sens. John Cornyn and Dianne Feinstein, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Ann Wagner, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Mitch McConnell. We also thank Debbie Smith and other advocates for their immense courage and continued support.”

“I appreciate all of the advocates who have fought tirelessly with us at every step of the way to bring us to this moment,” said Sen. Cornyn (R-TX). “I want to particularly recognize the folks at RAINN for consistently remaining above the political fray and always putting survivors first.”

"DNA is the one type of evidence that can definitively connect a perpetrator with their crime of sexual violence," said Debbie Smith. “For many, the Debbie Smith Act is their only hope for justice. This program gives people back their lives. I want to thank Congress for doing the right thing and passing the Debbie Smith Act.”

“Too many victims of violent crime are being denied justice because forensic labs across this country don’t have the resources to process DNA evidence – the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program is changing that,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12). “I first wrote and passed the Debbie Smith Act after hearing testimony from the bill’s namesake, Debbie Smith, that it took 6 years for her rape kit to be tested. When the Debbie Smith Act first passed, it was called the ‘the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law.’ The results of the grant program speak for themselves. This funding keeps rapists and other criminals off the streets. And equally important, the program is instrumental in delivering some measure of justice to survivors of violence. I urge the President to sign this reauthorization bill immediately.”

“I am thrilled that the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act has finally passed the Senate,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO-2). “Now that the Debbie Smith Act is being reauthorized, our communities can better identify and prosecute violent predators and find justice for the survivors who have bravely come forward to pursue their attackers. I am pleased that our continued efforts to get this legislation over the finish line worked, and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.”

Eight out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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