Biden Talks About Rape Kit Initiative the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)

RAINN UPDATE 

(March 19, 2015) — “Testing rape kits should be an absolute priority for the United States,” declared Vice President Joe Biden after touring a Maryland State Police crime lab responsible for analyzing evidence for crimes of sexual assault.

Biden was in Baltimore to draw attention to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), which will award up to $24 million to local law enforcement agencies working to test rape kits and investigate open cases.

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal also includes $20 million for backlog-related research at the Justice Department, and $105 million for reducing the DN A backlog and related purposes. Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN vice president for public policy, and Smith have been lobbying Congress to communicate the importance of not cutting funding. “At a time when the national spotlight is trained on the rape kit backlog and efforts to move more rape kits from law enforcement evidence rooms to public crime labs for testing, it’s imperative that Congress provide at least level funding for this critical program.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who joined Biden, urged the public to remember that “behind every kit, there’s a victim, and behind every victim there’s a predator. When you get a predator off the street, you not only do justice to the victim, but [prevent “future crimes].” Mikulski is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Rape survivors Debbie Smith, after whom the primary federal DNA law is named, and Helena Lazaro joined the political leaders at the press conference.

Biden, a lead sponsor of the Debbie Smith Act, noted that he can still remember the day Smith told her story to a Senate committee in 2004, spurring Congress to act to reduce the testing backlog.

The vice president noted that SAKI is intended to complement the Debbie Smith Act and the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Report (SAFER) Act, passed by Congress as part of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

SAFER, which requires that at least 75% of DNA funds go towards reducing the backlog and will help law enforcement agencies audit their unsubmitted rape kits, is awaiting implementation by the Justice Department.

Also pending are details of a national grant initiative announced by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., last year. The DA pledged $35 million in funding to help jurisdictions working to address backlogged kits.

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal also includes $20 million for backlog-related research at the Justice Department, and $105 million for reducing the DN A backlog and related purposes. Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN vice president for public policy, and Smith have been lobbying Congress to communicate the importance of not cutting funding. “At a time when the national spotlight is trained on the rape kit backlog and efforts to move more rape kits from law enforcement evidence rooms to public crime labs for testing, it’s imperative that Congress provide at least level funding for this critical program.”

 

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