Cornyn’s Bill Wants To Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog

It's a nationwide problem. Hundreds of thousands of rape-kits sit in limbo because local police don't have the proper resources to process them. It's been a problem here in Houston too, with thousands of the kits sitting on shelves in police evidence storage rooms. Legislation introduced by Texas Senator John Cornyn is designed to dramatically reduce that backlog.


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The bill is called the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act.

Texas Senator John Cornyn introduced the measure to help eliminate the massive national backlog of an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits.

Senator Cornyn says each kit represents a victim denied closure, and a rapist who might go unpunished.

“What I want to do is make sure that more of the money that the federal government spends —  it’ll be roughly $117 million this next year alone — goes to testing these untested kits. In a nutshell, what this legislation would do, it would commit up to 7 percent of the funds in this $117 million to inventory these untested rape kits, so we know what we have. And then it would demand that, at least 75 percent of those funds to be used to actually test these kits.”

Houston has a backlog of over 6,600 untested rape kits. Mayor Annise Parker says its a matter of utilizing resources and making critical decisions about how resources are prioritized.

“Some of it was caused by, literally by a lack of resources. Some of it was the result of strategic decisions that we may now decide were not the best, as to which rape kits should be tested appropriately, and which ones not. But what we do know today is that we have a problem, and we are about solutions, and this Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Act is a potential solution.”

Diane Savage is with the Bay Area Turning Point, a local service agency that provides among other things, sexual assault prevention education to Houston area youth. She hopes the measure passes because it will help in the healing process.

“Since January of this year, we have assisted 163 victims of sexual assault. We call them survivors, because they live to tell someone, and to reach out for help. The scars will remain a lifetime, but we know that they can heal. Let’s get busy; implement the SAFER Act, dust those rape kits off, and let’s get it done.”

The measure could help end the rape kit backlog with no new spending and better target existing funds.

To view a PDF of the STAR Act, click here.

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