Washington, D.C.--(Newsfile Corp. - November 6, 2023) - The U.S. Senate voted to renew the Debbie Smith Act, a law that, to date, is responsible for aiding hundreds of thousands of investigations in America. The bill provides critical funding to public crime laboratories to efficiently and swiftly test DNA evidence, including rape kits.
"The Debbie Smith Act has been the most effective anti-rape legislation that Congress has ever passed," said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's founder and president. "It has helped law enforcement test hundreds of thousands of pieces of DNA evidence, identified serial rapists, and helped in the prosecutions of the nation's most dangerous sexual predators."
Since the Debbie Smith Act became law, more than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed. Of all the investigations aided by CODIS, the FBI's DNA database that identifies criminals based on DNA, nearly half are a result of the Debbie Smith Act. Reauthorization will be vital to ending the backlog of the still nearly 90,000 untested sexual assault kits in 37 states and Washington D.C., as of January 2022. These untested kits are a major obstacle to effectively prosecuting perpetrators and protecting communities.
"The Senate's vote to renew this program is a huge win for survivors and everyone who believes in justice," said Berkowitz. "We're very grateful for the leadership of Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and the late Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and to Debbie Smith herself. Now we urge the House to follow suit, and send this bill to President Biden, who, as a Senator, was one of the original sponsors of the Debbie Smith Act."
"The gathering of evidence during a sexual assault forensic exam, is a very long, invasive, and difficult experience for survivors," said Samantha Cadet, director of federal affairs, appropriations, and national coalitions for RAINN. "When a survivor decides to obtain a rape kit it is imperative that the kit is tested and processed in a timely manner."
The reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act of 2023 (S.499) will provide grants to state and local public crime laboratories to build capacity to analyze DNA samples in evidence kits. The Debbie Smith Act was last reauthorized in 2019 and expires this fiscal year.
RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, help organizations improve their sexual assault prevention and response programs, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, free, confidential help is available 24/7 by calling 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visiting online.RAINN.org.
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