Join Joyful Heart in Supporting the SAFER Act

Along with other survivor advocacy organizations, including the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Healing Exists After Rape Trauma (HEART) and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), Joyful Heart supports the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act of 2012 (SAFER Act), S.3250. The SAFER Act, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), will help state and local law enforcement agencies to end both crime lab and police storage rape kit backlogs by:

  • Increasing the percentage of Debbie Smith Act grant funds that must be spent on analyzing untested crime scene evidence;
  • Providing state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession;
  • Creating a national database maintained by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to track those audits, and
  • Requiring greater tracking of how Debbie Smith Act grant funds are spent.

The SAFER Act amends the Debbie Smith Act, which provides federal grants to eligible states and local governments to conduct analyses of backlogged DNA evidence. Joyful Heart encourages Congress to pass the SAFER Act because it addresses several concerns we have about the current version of the Debbie Smith Act.

The SAFER Act will ensure that more Debbie Smith grant funds are awarded directly to state and local governments to end the rape kit backlog. The Act will amend current law to increase the percentage of Debbie Smith appropriations grantees must use to analyze untested DNA crime scene evidence, or enhance the capacity of labs to do so, from 40 percent to 75 percent.

The national sexual assault forensic evidence registry, the DOJ-managed database, will increase grantee accountability by ensuring they are spending funds on auditing the untested rape kits in their possession. In turn, grantees will be better able to prioritize the analysis of untested rape kits and target Debbie Smith appropriations. They would be required to identify and upload to the registry a small number of pieces of critical information about each audited rape kit, such as: (1) the date of the sexual assault to which the kit relates; (2) the jurisdiction in which the sexual assault occurred; (3) the date on which the statute of limitations for the sexual assault in question would bar prosecution; and (4) the testing status of the rape kit.

The registry will also assist the DOJ in determining which jurisdictions have a greater need for Debbie Smith funding, and how much of that funding they need to eliminate their backlogs. Finally, the registry will create greater public awareness about the backlog by requiring the DOJ to make information gained through the audits available on a public website.

Joyful Heart calls on Congress to pass the SAFER Act, which currently has bipartisan support in both chambers, and ensure that more of the 400,000 untested rape kits across the country are tested, bringing justice to the survivors those kits represent.

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