Frankens Provisions to Help Sexual Assault Victims Included in Major Law Enforcement Bill
U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said today that his provision to ensure that victims of sexual assault are no longer forced to pay for their own rape kits was included in major law enforcement legislation introduced this week by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The rape kit provision was one of three Franken measures Leahy included in his Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which authorizes funds to support the use of DNA evidence. The other two Franken provisions encourage local law enforcement jurisdictions to more quickly process their backlog of rape kits, which are used to gather and preserve evidence in sexual assault cases.
"We have an obligation to ensure that survivors of sexual assault receive prompt medical attention-without them having to worry about if they're going to have to pay for it. We also must make certain their assailants are brought to justice," said Sen. Franken. "These provisions will go a long way to help survivors of sexual assault and clear the backlog of untested rape kits. I want to thank Chairman Leahy, who has been a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual assault, for including these provisions in the Justice for All Reauthorization Act."
In 2004, Leahy teamed up with then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) and others to enact the Debbie Smith Act, named after a rape survivor whose backlogged rape kit went untested for six years after her assault. That act provided federal funding for the testing of backlogged DNA evidence but numerous reports suggest that backlog levels across the country remain high.
The provisions from Sen. Franken's justice for survivors of sexual assault act included in the justice for all act would:
· Prohibit the current practice-permitted by federal law-where certain jurisdictions bill rape victims and then allow the victim to seek reimbursement from the state.
· This will require all jurisdictions receiving STOP grants to provide free rape kits to victims or arrange for them to receive free rape kits.
· Require jurisdictions to report how much of their Debbie Smith grant funds have been used to analyze DNA from sexual assault cases.
· Penalize those jurisdictions that fail to report the reductions in rape kit backlog levels to the Department of Justice by reducing that Debbie Smith grant funding.
Chairman Leahy's bill reauthorizes current law and may be acted upon in the coming months.