RAINN’s New Director of Federal Affairs on What Lies Ahead on Capitol Hill this Fall

Samantha Cadet recently joined RAINN as the director of federal affairs, where she oversees federal policy efforts, with an emphasis on national coalition-building and federal appropriations. She sat down with RAINNews’ Sierra Scott to share the Public Policy team’s goals for this session of Congress and what lies ahead.

What brought you to RAINN and applying for a role in the policy team?

I have been interested in sex crimes since I was in college. When I was a junior in college, I took a human rights course that focused on human rights violations, including sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. This hit home for me. All of my academic papers after that were on sex trafficking and rape. Along with my studies, I interned for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs. I was on team Mexico/Central America and team Canada/English-speaking Caribbean. On these teams, I helped domestic and foreign prosecutors gather evidence and advance extradition requests. In many of these cases, I saw a lot of child exploitation on platforms including Whatsapp and Facebook.

Following this position, I worked for my alma mater within the Office of Government Relations. I served the University of Georgia as their Assistant Director of Federal Relations. I worked closely with the Director of Federal Relations in executing university priorities with the federal government and served as the university’s liaison with Congress, federal departments, agencies, higher education associations, and advocacy groups. All of these experiences solidified why I wanted to continue doing work around anti-sexual violence, lobbying, and policy change.

What are your personal goals for the next year?

In college, I was a criminal justice major and focused on sex crimes both domestically and internationally. Now that I am at RAINN, my goal is to become an expert in the field. I want to fully understand the issues that we need to address in the nation for survivors of rape and sexual abuse, especially for child sexual abuse survivors.

What is the Public Policy team prioritizing on Capitol Hill in the coming months?

One of our priority pieces of legislation is the Project Safe Childhood Modernization Act of 2021, which would require U.S. Attorneys to create high-priority, district-specific targeting plans that focus federal law enforcement efforts on the thousands of children who are being abused and need rescue. Additionally, it will add a minimum of 20 full-time federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice. These federal prosecutors would be dedicated to addressing child sexual exploitation cases. The bill would also require the U.S. Attorney General to develop and disseminate best practices to the field for the prioritization of these cases.

We are also working on the Child Rescue Act, which will direct the Attorney General to establish a U.S. Commission on Children in Imminent Danger. The commission will consist of private and public sector experts that are in charge of answering the question of how many adults are engaged in child exploitation in the U.S., how many children can be located and rescued right now, and what resources are needed to do so. The Attorney General will be required to disseminate criteria and prioritization guidance to the field, which is desperately needed.

Additionally, we are working on a bill to establish a U.S. E-safety Commissioner. The E-Safety commissioner will have a role similar to the Australian E-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant. It will create a framework for child sexual abuse material and other harmful content, such as non-consensual sharing of intimate photos and cyberbullying, to be removed and blocked. The commissioner will also be responsible for developing and deploying safety by design principles and best practices for existing and emerging technology companies to protect children's privacy online.

The RAINN team is also advocating for funding towards the Debbie Smith DNA grant program and the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to address the rapekit backlog. In addition, we are advocating for additional funding to help increase the availability of sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) across the nation. According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, only 17-20 percent of American hospitals have sexual assault nurse examiners on staff. Additionally, in Alaska, some survivors must take two airplanes and travel 15 hours to see a sexual assault nurse examiner. In other parts of the country, survivors travel several hours and across state lines. The policy team is working on legislation that will establish regional training centers to provide critical clinical experience for SANEs before they are sent out into rural areas, provide salaries to hire nurses in underserved, tribal, and rural communities, provide funding to increase availability for pediatric nurses, and provide funding for mobile SANE units.

Internationally, RAINN is working on increasing the availability of post-rape care in six African countries including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Egypt. The policy team is looking at establishing and improving women’s health centers in these countries and their crisis response to sexual violence with a focus on both physical and emotional care. RAINN is also looking at these six countries in terms of their DNA infrastructure by advocating for funding to build their DNA infrastructure to utilize DNA forensic science and databases to combat sexual violence and sex trafficking.

We've been able to exapnd our capacity to work on legislation to protect children thanks to a grant from the Oak Foundation. The Oak Foundation is an organization that commits its resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the loved of people who are disadvantaged

What is your message to survivors?

We see you. We hear you. We are here to help you in any capacity. We want you to know that what happened to you was not your fault and should never have happened. We care about you.

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