Policy Corner March 2023

On February 14, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled Protecting Our Children Online. During the hearing, experts in the field advised senators on the risks to children on the internet today, including grooming and sexual exploitation. Both the panels and senators emphasized the need for Congress to take action to hold social media platforms accountable for the harms they cause, and to provide an incentive for companies to reduce risks to children, and advocated for passage of two bills RAINN has endorsed: the EARN IT Act and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to pass these critical bills to protect children from sexual exploitation online.

Additionally, both houses of Congress recently introduced the Debbie Smith Act reauthorization. The Debbie Smith Act provides funding to state and local forensic DNA labs to increase their capacity to test rape kits and end the backlog. This funding is critical to ensure justice for survivors of sexual assault - since 2011, there has been an 85% increase in the demand for DNA testing, due in large part to the success of DNA in identifying sexual offenders. Since its inception, Debbie Smith Act funding has been responsible for 56% of DNA hits to the Combined DNA Index System, the FBI’s database of crime scene DNA samples. RAINN has worked with Debbie Smith to pass this legislation since its inception in 2004, and continues to advocate for its reauthorization and robust funding from Congress. Every year, Congress must appropriate funding under the Act, but it must also be reauthorized every five years. To sign the petition supporting the Debbie Smith Act which ends the rape kit backlog, click this link.

Lastly, a century-old Mississippi state law states that one must be a virgin at the time of an assault to be considered a survivor by the criminal justice system. RAINN’s policy team is committed to changing this law to protect survivors of all circumstances and to fight incorrect, misogynistic understandings of sexual assault. Join the fight by engaging with this TikTok video, and following us on our other social platforms to stay updated on our upcoming political actions!

Think you can’t change a law? Think again.

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