I first met Debbie Smith in June 2001 at a hearing I held in the Government Reform Committee on DNA. When she was done telling her story, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. I decided to author legislation titled “The Debbie Smith Act” in the 107th Congress to get rapists off the streets. Mrs. Smith was unable to identify her masked attacker, but DNA is better than many eyewitness accounts. DNA doesn't forget, and DNA cannot be intimidated by defense counsel. Six years after Mrs. Smith was raped, DNA helped to identify her attacker.
In 2004 “The Debbie Smith Act” was signed into law as part of the “Justice for All Act” (P.L. 108-405). “The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act” was signed into law in 2008 (P.L. 110-360). P.L. 110-360 authorizes $151 million in each fiscal year from FY2009-FY2014 to process DNA evidence, and it reauthorizes programs for training and education and sexual assault forensic exam grants.
In 2007, Lifetime released "A Life Interrupted", a movie dramatization of Debbie Smith's story starring Lea Thompson. Find out more information here.
**For information regarding DNA evidence collected for a specific victim or offender, please contact the state/local crime lab, law enforcement agency, hospital, or prison responsible for collecting and testing that sample. For information regarding the laws in your state/locality, please contact the office of your state attorney general, local district attorney's office, magistrate, or Member of Congress.**
Background on the Debbie Smith Act
Debbie Smith was taken from her home and raped in the woods nearby. Her husband (Robert), a law enforcement officer in Williamsburg, Virginia, was asleep in their bedroom. Six and a half years later, Mrs. Smith's attacker was identified and convicted because of the processing of DNA evidence. Currently, there is no standardization for evidence collection kits, a tremendous backlog exists in processing evidence recovered from rape victims, and a need exists for trained personnel to be the "front-line" workers who collect DNA evidence from victims after they have been raped. The SANE program trains medical personnel, law enforcement, and first responders to specifically deal with sexual assault victims. When a victim is assaulted, the SANE program ensures her health and treat injuries, properly collects and maintains the evidence, and assists with the emotional needs of the victim. The most important component is the training of the medical personnel to conduct the exam appropriately. Countless stories are told regarding the long waits, going from hospital to hospital, and being further humiliated. The medical personnel and law enforcement personnel will be given the tools to do it appropriately.
Organizations that have endorsed the Debbie Smith Act
The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), The National Center for Victims of Crime, Lifetime Television, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Emergency Nurses Association, Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, StopFamilyViolence.org, The Intercollegiate Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Ms. Magazine, The Oregonian, National Council of Women's Organizations, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American College of Nurse Practitioners, and the National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
08/10/10 - H.R. 6085, SAFER Act of 2010 [111th Congress]
11/19/09 - H.R.4114, Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 [111th Congress]
01/17/08 - H.R. 5057, The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act [110th Congress]
03/04/03 - H.R. 1046, Debbie Smith Act (lead Democrat) [108th Congress]
09/10/01 - H.R.2874, Debbie Smith Act [107th Congress]