09.09.15

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on Attorney General to Take “Immediate Steps” on Rape Kit Backlog

USA Today Investigation Reveals 70,000 kits nationwide, 6,000 in Wisconsin Remain Untested

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Baldwin today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for the Department of Justice to take “immediate steps” after a recent USA Today investigation revealed at least 70,000 sexual assault kits remain untested nationwide, including more than 6,000 in Wisconsin. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin supported the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which included strong funding for the Debbie Smith Act and directed the Department of Justice to use the vast majority of this funding specifically to reduce the backlog in testing sexual assault kits. In 2004, Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act authorizing federal grants to assist local law enforcement in the testing of backlogged DNA samples, and has twice reauthorized this law with overwhelming, bipartisan support. 

“This is simply unacceptable and the Department must more strongly fulfill the key role Congress has directed it to take in helping local law enforcement agencies address the backlog,” Senator Baldwin wrote. “It is critical that victims of sexual assault across the country receive the swift and thorough justice they deserve, and timely analysis of DNA evidence is one important tool in ensuring that is what they get.  Today’s backlog leaves victims and their families without closure and potentially puts other members of our communities at risk of sexual violence.  Congress has sent a strong message to the Department that addressing this ongoing crisis is a bipartisan priority and I urge you to take immediate steps to provide local law enforcement with resources and technical assistance that can help them eliminate the backlog as quickly as possible.”

Survivors of sexual assault face many physical and emotional challenges in the wake of an attack, including the difficult process of assisting law enforcement in finding and prosecuting their assailants, in many cases by using sexual assault kits to preserve DNA samples. Many of these kits are never processed, but rather sit untested in police storage or on the shelf at a crime lab facility.

Read Senator Baldwin’s letter here