Bill to reauthorize Maloney’s Debbie Smith Act headed for President’s desk
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) today released the following statement on the Senate’s passage of the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014, H.R. 4323.
“The Debbie Smith Act has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law, because it provides substantial federal funds to help states and localities work through DNA evidence backlogs. Rape kits that sat on shelves began to be tested and predators who walked our streets were finally put behind bars when the law took effect.
“New reports in cities like Detroit, Memphis and elsewhere show that this problem has still not been solved. There are tens of thousands of rape kits that have not been tested and that means tens of thousands of survivors are left without answers.
“Congress has taken an important step toward addressing this problem by reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act for another five years. I am hopeful that Congress will take additional steps to ensure that no woman is attacked by a person who could have been taken off our streets if only there were the resources to eliminate the rape kit backlog.”
Rep. Maloney authored the original “Debbie Smith Act” after rape survivor Debbie Smith testified before the House Government Reform Committee in June 2001 about using DNA evidence to solve rape cases. Debbie was raped near her home in 1989, and for six and a half years she lived in fear that her attacker would return to kill her. Debbie was finally able to live without fear when she learned that her rapist had been identified because of DNA evidence and was already in prison.
The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in 2004 as part of “The Justice for All Act”, comprehensive legislation that ensured that DNA evidence could be used to convict the guilty and free the innocent. Since then, millions of dollars of federal funding have been appropriated under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to process the thousands of unprocessed DNA evidence kits - including rape kits - across the country. When signed into law, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 provided $151 million annually and extended the program through FY 2014.
In 2013, language Congresswoman Maloney authored to require that 75 percent of Debbie Smith Act funds be used to process the backlog of untested rape kits, was included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was signed into law. The language mirrored the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting Act (SAFER Act, H.R. 354) Maloney cosponsored with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). The law is also provides grants to conduct audits of unprocessed kits so that the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in labs across the country can be tracked.