WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) announced he has reintroduced his resolution to combat the rape kit backlog alongside his fellow Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, Reps. John Katko (NY-24), Ann Kuster (NH-02) and Jackie Speier (CA-14). When tested, DNA evidence obtained by sexual assault kits can be a powerful tool in solving and preventing crimes of sexual violence. However, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of these kits across the country remain untested.
In 2019, an investigation conducted by the Attorney General of Missouri found over 7,000 untested rape kits across the state. According to a report by the Attorney General of California, nearly 14,000 sexual assault exam kits remained untested in California as of 2020. While the State Auditor’s Office in Washington found the state has greatly improved tracking and processing of some 9,000 untested sexual assault kits, the backlog still sits at around 6,000.
In 2018, Ohio officials announced that they had cleared a backlog of nearly 14,000 rape kits, connecting 300 suspects to more than 1,200 offenses. And just last year, the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University and the Criminology Research Center at Cleveland State University, in partnership with the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, analyzed the cost of testing backlogged sexual assault kits in Cuyahoga County, and found that each kit tested produces an estimated net savings to the community of $5,127, producing a total cost savings of $26,480,000.
“In Ohio, we’ve worked to give law enforcement the tools they need to improve the processing of rape kits and hold those who commit these horrible crimes accountable,” said Joyce. “I’m proud to re-introduce this bipartisan resolution with my colleagues to ensure that same progress can be implemented across the country. As a former prosecutor, I understand all too well that each of the kits in this backlog represent real people waiting for justice. It’s past time to take action at the federal level to help combat the rape kit backlog and give survivors the justice they deserve.”
“Addressing the rape kit backlog is essential in ensuring that communities remain safe and perpetrators are bought to justice,” says Samantha Cadet, Director of Federal Affairs, Appropriations, and National Coalitions of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). “With the recent case in Memphis, Tennessee we have seen the repercussions of not promptly processing these kits. We are thankful for Rep. Joyce, Rep. Kuster, Rep. Speier, and Rep. Katko’s leadership on this issue and hope to see more from Congress in addressing the backlog.”
“H.Res. 1492, a resolution directly in line with our Six Pillars of rape kit reform, will guide states in creating a survivor-centered process that facilitates the timely testing and tracking of rape kits,” says Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “We know from states that have already adopted legislation that aligns with these pillars that testing rape kits solve crimes and saves lives. We are eager for the 34 states that have yet to pass full reform to act quickly and bring a path to justice for survivors who have waited far too long while their rape kits remain untested. We thank Rep. Joyce, Rep. Kuster, Rep. Speier, and Rep. Katko for highlighting this important issue and look forward to Congress passing this resolution.”
Specifically, Joyce’s resolution would:
- Encourage states to establish collaborations with state and local sexual assault advocates, sexual assault nurse examiners, and law enforcement officers to ensure that:
- A sexual assault advocate is made available to sexual assault survivors upon a report to law enforcement, during a sexual assault forensic exam and for ongoing support and services
- Sexual assault survivors are notified of their rights and kit results in a trauma-informed manner, in collaboration with sexual assault advocates
- Policies and procedures pertaining to sexual assault kit examinations, testing, and notification are victim-centered and developed collaboratively across victim advocacy, medical, law enforcement, and other sexual assault response team partners
- Urge states to conduct an annual statewide audit to inventory all untested sexual assault kits with the goal of understanding the problem and monitor the progress to eliminate backlogs
- Press law enforcement agencies to submit all newly collected and previously untested kits to a laboratory and require the laboratory to test kits for DNA within a specific timeframe and ensure they’re uploaded to the appropriate databases.
- Advise states to develop a sexual assault kit tracking systems so survivors can check the status of their kits through the process and ensure that hospitals and laboratories are using the same tracking system.
- Create the appropriate mechanisms to notify survivors about their right to know the status and location of their sexual assault kits and their case.
- Ensure that states contribute appropriate and sustainable funding to address issues related to the sexual assault kit backlog, including trauma-informed support services for survivors.
You can read the full bill text here.