WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill introduced by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, which would reauthorize, strengthen, and extend the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting program to reduce the nationwide rape kit backlog.
“The first step to helping victims of sexual assault is addressing the backlog of untested rape kits sitting on shelves in labs across America. Law enforcement must have the resources necessary to help these individuals get the justice and closure they deserve,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I thank my colleagues in the Judiciary Committee for supporting this legislation and look forward to bringing it the Senate floor for consideration.”
“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand how critical it is for our law enforcement officers to have the resources they need to reduce the number of unprocessed rape kits and bring perpetrators to justice,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “With the Judiciary Committee’s passage of our bipartisan legislation, we are one step closer to cutting down on the rape kit backlog.”
“Victims of sexual assault deserve swift justice and nothing less,” Sen. Heller said. “Today the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee took action to help Nevada law enforcement in their efforts to cut down on the backlog of untested rape kits and ensure critical evidence isn’t left collecting dust. I’m proud to partner with Senator Cornyn on this legislation and see it gain momentum in Congress. As a strong supporter and author of proposals to crack down on these horrific crimes and aid victims on a path to recovery and closure, I urge the full U.S. Senate to swiftly pass this bill so it is one step closer to becoming law.”
“Law enforcement must have access to resources and training to process rape kits, so survivors of sexual violence receive the thorough and fair investigations they deserve,” Sen. Bennet said. “Colorado worked to end its backlog of rape kits in 2015 – a process that took two years and millions of dollars. The SAFER Act would help other states make the same progress and ensure justice is served. We applaud the SAFER Act’s passage in the Judiciary Committee, and we encourage its speedy passage in the full Senate.”
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) joined as cosponsors of the legislation. The SAFER Act also ensures pediatric forensic nurses are eligible for training, which addresses the need for pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners in responding to children suffering from abuse. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
Sens. Cornyn and Bennet were the authors of the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting Act, a 2013 law creating the SAFER Program which has helped law enforcement reduce the rape kit backlog through existing funds under the Debbie Smith Act. The legislation increased the amount of these funds spent on untested kits by 35 percent and allowed 5-7 percent to be used on SAFER program audits. It helps state and local law enforcement agencies address both the laboratory and storage backlogs by providing funding to conduct one-year audits of untested sexual assault evidence, which has uncovered tens of thousands of untested rape kits on shelves and in labs across the nation.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.