President Donald Trump signed the constitution that assigned funding to help states for clearing backlog of more than 100,000 rape kits across the United State, ending many years of nationwide initiatives for getting federal support. The White House signed the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act 2019.
The funding to local law and state enforcement aims for bringing justice to rape victims across the United States whose untested sexual assault kits have not done DNA testing to provide justice to unsolved cases. The legislation is named for the rape victims of 1989 whose evidence was not tested until 1994.
It provided millions of dollars to fund DNA training and education programs among corrections personnel, law enforcement, and court officers after becoming law in 2004. Advocates of this legislation highlight the importance of testing the rape kits as early as possible, The Debbie Smith Act and Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program have led to above 40% DNA matches as reported this week.
The White House Press Secretary Stephine Grisham said that DNA is much more likely than fingerprints for the identification of the criminal, yet thousands of sexual assault kits are currently untested on police storage shelves and in labs across the nation. The Debbie Smith Act became law to provide State and local crime labs the resources for ending the backlog of untested pieces of evidence of DNA from unsolved cases.
Previously, the bill has been passed with huge bipartisan support but Republican opposition to the assault against women act held it up in recent years. The majority of Republicans voted against the reauthorization of the legislation which amid pressures over women’s safety from the National Rifle Association.
Human Rights Watch and CBS news conducted an investigation which revealed that despite years and millions in funding, backlogs of rape kit persists in the U.S and have raised several grants supported states and countries. The reauthorized act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump provides an annual $151 million for the DNA Backlog Grant program.
Different states including Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, California, and Tennessee have a backlog of above 5,000 untested sexual assault kits according to the End the Backlog advocacy group. On the state level, law enforcement is required to submit all sexual assault kits for testing in Maryland.
Nearly five years after the first call of Maryland General Assembly for a statewide inventory. Only a handful of states which include Oregon the Dakotas, Ohio and South Carolina have a backlog of less than thousand rape kits still awaiting testing, according to End the Backlog data.
This continued funding will allow rape victims to seek justice more expediently, particularly in jurisdictions with statutes of limitation on these rape crimes. It is an effort for the victims who have been waiting and hoping for answers and living with fear for years to end sexual assault kit (SAK) backlogs nationwide so they could finally get justice.