Smucker Seeks to Reduce Rape Kit Backlog, Bring Justice to Victims of Sexual Assault

March 16, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker (PA-16) and Brendan Boyle (PA-13) are leading a bipartisan effort to provide justice to victims of sexual assault by reducing the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country.

According to the Pennsylvania Auditor General, more than 1,200 rape kits remain backlogged in the commonwealth. The majority of these rape kits have been waiting to be tested for more than one year, with some untested kits dating back to the 1990s. Reps. Smucker and Boyle are appealing to the House Committee on Appropriations for robust federal funding to process untested kits, including at least $49 million for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program and additional funding for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program.

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Reps. Smucker and Boyle wrote:

“As you are aware, rape kits and DNA evidence are a critical piece that law enforcement agencies use to identify and prosecute perpetrators. By prioritizing the reduction of the rape kit backlog we are sending a clear message to victims of sexual assault that we are committed to solving the crimes committed against them. For these reasons, we must increase the federal government’s response to reduce our rape kit backlog.”

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in the United States. Only six out of every 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators will spend time in jail.

Joining Reps. Smucker and Boyle on the letter are Pennsylvania Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Bob Brady, Ryan Costello, Keith Rothfus, Mike Kelly, and Patrick Meehan.

The full letter is below.

 

March 16, 2018

Dear Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano,

We are writing to respectfully request that you prioritize funding for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program and the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. We believe that both programs are instrumental in bringing justice to victims of sexual assault, improving public security, and reducing the number of untested rape kits. 

Tragically, hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested in the United States leaving sexual assault victims without the justice they deserve. According to the Pennsylvania Auditor General, more than 1,200 rape kits remain backlogged in the state. Moreover, the majority of these rape kits have been awaiting testing for more than 12 months with some untested kits dating back to the 1990s. As members of the Pennsylvania Delegation, we find this disturbing.

As you are aware, rape kits and DNA evidence are a critical piece that law enforcement agencies use to identify and prosecute perpetrators. By prioritizing the reduction of the rape kit backlog we are sending a clear message to victims of sexual assault that we are committed to solving the crimes committed against them.

We strongly encourage you to provide at least $49 million for the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative in the FY 2019 appropriations bill, which is consistent with the FY 2018 funding level in the House-passed appropriations bill. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is an evidenced-based grant program that is used by local and state governments to process rape kits that are in local law enforcement custody so they can be submitted to crime laboratories. Since the inception of this program in 2015, more than 45,000 rape kits in 26 states have been inventoried to address the processing problem. The program has been instrumental in delivering justice for thousands of victims and getting dangerous individuals off the streets.

Congress should also provide robust funding for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program. This grant program is another tool for local law enforcement and crime laboratories to effectively process DNA evidence in crime cases, which includes sexual assault cases. Furthermore, local and state governments are required to submit a plan to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) on how they plan to use funding to effectively reduce the rape kit backlog before they receive the funding.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests. We are grateful for your leadership in ensuring that our communities are safe and that victims receive the justice they deserve. 

Sincerely,

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