House Passes Cohen-Maloney Amendment to Secure Additional Funding to Help Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog
WASHINGTON, DC -- The House of Representatives today passed an amendment offered by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) to include an additional $4 million in the Fiscal Year 2018 House appropriations package for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), which helps local law enforcement agencies working to reduce their backlogs of untested rape kits. Today’s passage continues a trend of increased funding for SAKI. In 2015, Congressman Cohen and Congresswoman Maloney successfully offered an amendment to increase funding for SAKI by $4 million. If today’s House-passed amendment becomes law, Congress will have increased funding from $36 million to $49 million since 2014 – a 36% increase.
“Local law enforcement agencies need federal resources to address rape kit backlogs and seek justice for survivors of sexual assault,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “I worked to pass the Debbie Smith Act, which has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law, to provide substantial federal funds to help states and localities work through DNA evidence backlogs and increasing funding for SAKI will continue this much needed work. Rape kits that are sitting on shelves need to be tested and predators who walk our streets must be put behind bars. I’m proud to have worked with Rep. Cohen on this amendment.”
“DNA analysis has been revolutionary in helping catch criminals and prevent further crimes from occurring. But when evidence is sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting to be tested, that means assailants are still at large and could be assaulting more victims,” said Congressman Cohen. “The backlog of untested rape kits across this country is shameful, and we need to commit the resources necessary to get them tested. This increased funding will help make that happen. I am grateful that our amendment was included, and I am proud to have Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s support.”
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. The program was then extended in 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 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.