Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today announced that legislation she introduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of four other senators to fight the nationwide rape kit backlog passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act would work to help alleviate the current backlog of as many as 400,000 untested kits that could potentially hold critical evidence for law enforcement. Today’s action paves the way for the bill to be considered by the full Senate.
“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand how devastating delays in processing rape kits can be not only for law enforcement working on solving the case, but for victims who are seeking justice,”Klobuchar said. “This is an important step forward for this legislation that will help reduce the number of untested rape kits and help put perpetrators behind bars.”
“Today we took a large step toward ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault,”Cornyn said. “I’m encouraged by the support the SAFER Act received in the Judiciary Committee and look forward to a vote on the Senate floor.”
The SAFER Act requires that more funding go toward reducing the rape kit backlog. Currently, only 40% of funds from the program designed to reduce the backlog must actually be spent on analyzing untested evidence; theSAFER Act would require that 75% of funds be used to perform tests or increase the capacity to do so. The SAFER Act would also work to end rape kit backlogs by providing state and local governments with support to perform audits to determine the status of the rape kits they have collected. The jurisdictions performing the audits would provide statistical information to the Department of Justice in order to more effectively focus federal efforts on reducing the backlog, while thoroughly protecting the privacy interests of victims.
The bill is endorsed by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Hope Exists After Rape Trauma (HEART), Natasha’s Justice Project, and the Joyful Heart Foundation. Minnesota Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is also a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently led the effort to pass bipartisan legislation, signed into law last year, supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military. The bill ensures long-term preservation of sexual assault victims’ records, which can help veterans seek medical and disability assistance. Klobuchar led the successful effort to gather all 17 women senators as cosponsors of the bill before it became law.