May 22, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Contact: Megan Dutra-Joyce (
Nick Brown-Kuster (
Tracy Manzer-Speier (
Alexia Sikora-Donovan (
Melissa Schwartz-The Joyful Heart Foundation (


WASHINGTON – Rep. Dave Joyce and Members of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence introduced a bipartisan resolution urging states to pass comprehensive reforms to improve the handling and processing of sexual assault kits and expand access to sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) by 2020. The Task Force is chaired by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).

The resolution calls on states to develop sexual assault kit tracking systems, to submit previously untested sexual assault kits to a laboratory and require DNA testing within a specific timeframe, and to make sexual assault victim advocates available to survivors upon report of an assault to law enforcement, among other measures.

The resolution follows a June 2017 Task Force roundtable featuring Mariska Hargitay, founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation and star of Law and Order: SVU, and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley, and Richard Bell, Chief for the Special Investigations Division of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor. The roundtable focused on the sexual assault kit backlog and access to SANE nurses.

“There is good, collaborative work being done in Northeast Ohio to process the backlogged kits and hold criminals accountable for their crimes. We have been able to arrest and prosecute hundreds of serial sex offenders, preventing further crime in our communities at the hands of these perpetrators. The goal is to replicate this practice across the country,” said Congressman Joyce. “As a former prosecutor, I recognize that these kits represent real victims waiting for justice. It is time to take action.”

“When nearly twenty percent of woman and three percent of men living in the United States will still experience rape at some point in their lives, it is unconscionable and shameful that jurisdictions around the country are not testing evidence that could put serial perpetrators of sexual assault behind bars and thereby prevent future attacks,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This legislation will spur states to make reducing their sexual assault kit backlogs a priority, and expand access to critical services for survivors of sexual violence. Confronting these backlogs head-on is an essential step to securing justice for survivors and, as a co-founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I am proud to join with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to work to pass this legislation.”

“The fact that this backlog has continued is a clear sign that our government has yet to get its priorities straight. The backlog not only slows the wheels of justice, it further victimizes sexual assault survivors who are subjected to harsh public scrutiny by failing to treat their forensic evidence with the urgency and care that it requires,” said Congresswoman Speier. “That’s why I’m so proud to support this bipartisan legislation, alongside my Task Force co-chairs, and hope that it will motivate states to quickly move to remedy this insidious form of bureaucratic discrimination.”

Congressman Donovan said, “There are too many brave survivors waiting for justice. Ending the rape kit backlog is critical to public safety and it sends a clear message to the nation: we stand with all victims and will prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. I spent most of my career as a prosecutor, and we need to give law enforcement the tools necessary to fight these horrific crimes.”

“Ending the rape kit backlog will take a coordinated effort and deep commitment at all levels of government and in communities across the United States. We are grateful to the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence for recognizing the importance of nationwide engagement on key pillars of rape kit reform,” said Sarah Haacke Byrd, Managing Director for the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is pursuing a national campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states. “When the extent of a jurisdiction’s backlog is revealed, real reform can begin. When law enforcement agencies account for the untested kits in their custody, communities can begin to take steps to test those kits, hold offenders accountable, and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished, often for years-or even decades.”

The full text of the resolution can be found here.


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