Senate Budget Writers Renew Call to Action on Rape Kit Backlog

Stack of white evidence boxes with orange labels saying "Evidence. Warning!! Police Seal Do Not Remove"

 Senate appropriators are calling for focusing spending to resolve the backlog of untested DNA evidence from rape cases and putting an end to the practice of diverting some funds towards other forensic activities. In its Justice Department budget, passed last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $166 million for initiatives that address rape kit and DNA evidence backlogs.

The budget report explicitly directs the Justice Department to provide $117 million for rape kit testing and lab capacity building under the Debbie Smith Act, the nation’s first and largest anti-rape kit backlog program. Appropriators also directed DOJ, as required by the SAFER Act, to allocate at least 5% of these funds to support law enforcement audits of backlogged evidence, and to prioritize the testing of evidence from cases where the statute of limitations will soon expire.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who helped lead the effort to renew the Debbie Smith Act and to pass the SAFER Act, said of this proposal, “I was proud to author the SAFER Act, and I am pleased to see additional pressure put on the administration to fully implement it. Survivors of sexual assault deserve better than to have their rape kits left sitting on the shelf because the administration refuses to follow the law."

The Committee also approved:

  • $41 million to be spent on community-based efforts to respond to sexual violence.
  • $35 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program, which provides funds to community service providers and state coalitions against sexual assault.
  • $13 million to improve law enforcement and prosecutorial response to sexual assault.
  • $20 million for grants to address sexual violence on college campuses.

The budget also releases up to $2.6 billion from the Crime Victims Fund, which supports state victim compensation programs.

“We’re grateful to the Senate leaders for demonstrating, through action, a commitment to addressing the nation’s rape kit backlog,” said Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s vice president for public policy. “This reflects an understanding of the critical need to account for all kits and to continue to support the labs that are being charged with processing skyrocketing numbers of rape kits.”

The Senate budget must still be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives. House budget chiefs have pledged to support targeting DNA funding towards backlog testing and to implement the SAFER Act.

Learn more: Listen to RAINN's founder and president, as well as others, testify before a Senate Committee about the need for continued backlog funding.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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