Senate Passes Cornyn, Klobuchar, Heller, Bennet Bill to Fight Nationwide Rape Kit Backlog

In: All News   Posted 10/24/2017

WASHINGTON –The Senate 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 help fight the nationwide rape kit backlog.

“This bill will empower law enforcement to identify and test more backlogged rape kits, help take criminals off the streets, and deliver justice for survivors,” Sen. Cornyn said.  “I applaud the Senate for coming together to get this legislation over the finish line, and I urge my colleagues in the House to advance it quickly.”

“The idea that we have evidence laying around in labs that we could be using to bring criminals to justice is unacceptable,” said Klobuchar. “Passing this bipartisan legislation in the Senate is an important step forward in providing more resources for our law enforcement."

“Victims of sexual assault deserve swift justice and nothing less,” said Heller. “Today’s unanimous passage of this bipartisan bill represents an important step toward helping 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 garner wide, bipartisan support. 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 U.S. House to pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk.”

“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,” 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 will help other states make the same progress and ensure justice is served. We applaud the SAFER Act’s passage in the Senate, and we encourage its speedy passage in the House.”

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 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.