Congressional action needed to extend law to assist local agencies in rape kit testing

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WASHINGTON- For years hundreds of thousands of rape kits sat on police storage shelves across the country.

 “To just take that box and stick it on a shelf and never even bother testing it is incredibly insulting to victims,” Scott Berkowitz, RAINN.

Berkowitz with the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN says law enforcement simply couldn’t afford to test the kits and victims were ignored.

“It means they don’t have a chance at justice,” said Berkowitz.

 Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act in 2004.  Texas Senator John Cornyn says it provides federal grants to state labs to test the thousands of remaining kits for DNA evidence.

“More than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed,” said Senator Cornyn.

But funding runs out in September which means work on the backlogged rape kits will grind to a halt.

“There is no excuse for allowing it to expire,” Cornyn.

Cornyn says not a single senator voted against the reauthorization of the bill when it came to the floor for a vote earlier this year.

“But since we passed the legislation in May, the House of Representatives have sat on its hands and has done nothing,” said Cornyn.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tacked on the bill’s reauthorization to the Democrat’s Violence Against Women Act which is unlikely to pass the Republican senate.

“This is too important to get caught up in politics,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz says Pelosi should instead take up the Debbie Smith Act separately.  It has been stalled in a House committee for months.

Congress returns to work September 9th.  The Debbie Smith Act expires on September 30th.

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