The measure, signed Monday, will help deal with the more than 100,000 rape kits across the country that remain untested. Advocates say that, without proper federal funding, they might never be tested.
The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019, named after a victim of rape in 1989 where the evidence wasn’t tested until 1994, also funds DNA training and education programs, as well as the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program.
“We know that DNA is much more likely than fingerprints to result in the identification of a criminal,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “yet thousands of rape kits currently sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the Nation.”
It’s important to test rape kits as soon as possible since statutes of limitations bar prosecution of perpetrators in certain states.
Since 2004, the Debbie Smith Act has had considerable success. According to advocates, almost 200,000 sexual offenders have been identified, and over 40% of all DNA matches since 2005 were because of resources that became available because of grant money.
The measure has had a history of being reauthorized with bipartisan support but this time was caught up in a dispute over reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
According to Grisham, each year $151 million will be allocated for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, “$12.5 million for DNA training and education programs; and $30 million for the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program.”