NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, one of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations working toward nationwide rape kit reform, today welcomed the U.S. Department of Justice’s release of two solicitations for funding to address the growing backlog of sexual assault kits at law enforcement agencies.
This program, funded through a first-of-its-kind federal investment in the FY15 Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill last year, will provide local communities resources through the Bureau of Justice Assistance to support multidisciplinary community response teams engaged in the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions’ approaches to sexual assault cases. This includes testing backlogged kits; investigating and prosecuting cases connected to the backlog; and addressing the need for victim notification and re-engagement with the criminal justice system.
The solicitations can be found HERE: https://www.bja.gov/Funding/15SAKIsol.pdf
“At long last, survivors will hear the message: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your case matters. We are so grateful to the President and Vice President for their leadership on this issue, and to leaders in the U.S House of Representatives and Senate for recognizing that survivors deserve to experience the power of the law, that they deserve justice, that they deserve everything we can give them to help them heal,” said Maile M. Zambuto, CEO of Joyful Heart.
DNA evidence contained in a rape kit can identify unknown assailants, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm the survivor’s account of the attack, connect the suspect to other unsolved crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects. And yet, there are thousands upon thousands of rape kits sitting untested in police storage facilities across the country representing thousands of leads to investigate, survivors to re-engage with compassion and care, and cases to prosecute.
But testing rape kits is just the first step to comprehensive reform. Once the problem is acknowledged and the first kits are sent out for testing, cities are left to grapple with the enormous task of finding a way to test all of the rape kits in their storage facilities, and figuring out how to investigate and prosecute these cases, re-engage survivors in the process, and address any systemic failures that led to the creation of the problem in the first place.
For background and further information on the rape kit backlog, go to: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.