UNITED STATES CONGRESS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2014
Cornyn: Jessica Sandlin, 512-469-6034
Poe: Shaylyn Hynes, 202-225-6565
Cornyn, Poe Press Holder To Comply With Violence Against Women Act
DOJ in violation of section of the law intended to curb national rape kit backlog
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, today wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the Department of Justice’s violation of a federal law intended to reduce the number of untested rape kits nationwide. As part of the Violence Against Women Act, the SAFER Act of 2013, co-authored by Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Poe, required the DOJ to issue regulations regarding best practices for rape kit collection and processing by September 7, 2014. To date, the DOJ has not issued such regulations. In the letter, Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Poe press the Attorney General to act immediately to bring his department into compliance and take the steps needed to implement this important law to curb the nation’s massive rape kit backlog.
“There is no excuse for your failure to implement a bipartisan law that provides additional protections for sexual assault survivors. We ask that you take immediate action to comply with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 by fully implementing the SAFER Act of 2013. The victims of sexual assault in the United States deserve nothing less.”
The full text of the letter is below.
September 9, 2014
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Holder:
As the authors of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act of 2013, we write to inform you that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is in violation of this important legislation to protect sexual assault victims. The SAFER Act of 2013 was signed into law on March 7, 2013 as Title X of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.
The massive backlog of untested rape kits in the United States is a national scandal with tragic consequences for sexual assault victims. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits currently sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the nation—each one of them holding the potential to solve a crime, imprison a rapist and provide victims with the justice they deserve. For this reason, we were proud to sponsor the SAFER Act of 2013, which requires your Department to take numerous steps to eliminate the rape kit backlog by: dedicating funds for audits of the rape kit backlog, increasing resources for the analysis of untested rape kits, developing best practices to ensure that rape kits are properly collected and processed, and implementing reporting requirements to increase public information about the nationwide rape kit backlog.
The SAFER Act of 2013 (Section 1002) requires your Department to issue “protocols and practices” for the “accurate, timely, and effective collection and processing of DNA evidence, including protocols and practices specific to sexual assault cases. . .” within 18 months of the date of enactment. Unfortunately, the time period for issuing these guidelines to ensure that rape kits are properly and expeditiously tested expired on September 7th without DOJ compliance. Your Department is therefore in violation of the SAFER Act of 2013, as enacted by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.
We respect and honor the work that your Department has done to protect victims of crime, but there is no excuse for your failure to implement a bipartisan law that provides additional protections for sexual assault survivors. We ask that you take immediate action to comply with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 by fully implementing the SAFER Act of 2013. The victims of sexual assault in the United States deserve nothing less.