Last night, rape kit reform passed in Georgia. But our advocacy to bring meaningful rape kit reform around the country still carries on.
The "Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act" is a highly supported piece of Georgia legislation brought by Rep. Scott Holcomb to address the untested rape kit backlog. The House of Representatives passed the bill, unanimously. However, it is now seriously threatened in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.
This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $41 million in its FY2015 Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill to address the rape kit backlog.
For the first time, the White House has dedicated funding that will provide cities across the country with the vital resources they need to help end the nationwide rape kit backlog.
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.
Since New York established its DNA Databank in 1996, law enforcement agencies from across the state have solved thousands of crimes—including more than 3,300 sexual assaults and 800 murders. After the state legislature expanded the Databank in 2006 to include certain misdemeanors, police solved 53 murders and 223 sexual assaults using DNA samples from petit larceny convictions alone.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization by Congress this year. Since its enactment 17 years ago, VAWA has saved countless lives, protected families, given a voice to survivors and provided invaluable training to the criminal justice community. VAWA is both a symbol and actualization of what it means to create healing and justice for survivors and their communities.